Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jan 2018

Jon Gruden Will Coach the Raiders Forever

The worst-kept secret in football over the past week has been Jon Gruden's return to coach the Oakland Raiders. That will now be made official on Tuesday, and it's a doozy of a deal.

Per Adam Schefter, Gruden will receive a 10-year, $100 million deal to come out of ESPN's broadcast booth and rejoin the sidelines. The contract will run for eight years after the Raiders move to Las Vegas, and is by a wide margin the longest deal ever given to a head coach. At $10 million per year, it also immediately makes him the highest-paid head coach in the NFL.

His staff is also expected to sign four-year deals, rather than the usual three, to help with the transition to Las Vegas.

Earlier rumors had Gruden receiving an ownership stake in the team, which would have required approval from the other owners around the league. Instead, they apparently gave him the equivalent cash prize.

Gruden previously coached the Raiders from 1998-2001, compiling a 38-26 record. He was then traded, for two first- and two second-round picks, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who he lead to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII over his old team. He had a 57-55 record in seven years in Tampa Bay before being fired after the 2008 season. He has not coached in football since.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles on 05 Jan 2018

79 comments, Last at 12 Jan 2018, 4:33am by The Ninjalectual


by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:09pm

Raiders Super Bowl 53 championz. Tremendous move by Mark davis. J. Del Rio alright but not as good as Gruden. To illustrate greatness and coascjumg abikoyy, Gruden is an elephant and Del Rio is ear of elephant

by bravehoptoad :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:35pm

Ordinarily I follow you without a hitch, Joe, but "coascjumg abikoyy" has got me stumped.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:58pm

ohoh meant coaching abilituy

by jds :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:58pm

coaching ability

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:03pm

"coalescing attaboy"

by Scott P. :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 1:17pm

"To illustrate greatness and covfefe."

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:12pm

As a Bucs fan, I will always have a warm spot in my heart for Jon Gruden for what he did to put that 2002 team over the top. From 2003 onwards, I just don't understand why anyone would be falling over themselves to want him as a coach. He feuded with his players, churned through a series of bad veteran QBs trying to find Rich Gannon 2.0, helped oversee a series of patently horrible drafts, and didn't win. I have absolutely zero desire to see Jon Gruden as Bucs head coach again, and I was horrified when the rumors started up.

Just. Don't. Get it.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:40pm

Going to replay to myself rather than editing, just to put this in its own post. Gruden was the head coach from 2002-2008. Here's a link to PFR, showing the team's drafting during that era:


Using Career AV as a convenient short-cut for quality of career, Gruden's draft record is somewhere between "abysmal" and "drunk Matt Millen". 61 players were drafted. Of those:

-50+ Career AV: Aqib Talib (57). Most with somebody else, obviously.

-40+ Career AV: Jeremy Zuttah (47), Davin Joseph (45), Barrett Ruud (41). When two decent linemen fall 2-3 over the course of your drafting history, not really a good sign, right?

-30+ Career AV: Jeremy Trueblood (36), Jermaine Philips (32), Geno Hayes (31).

I'll stop there, because, conveniently enough, that's seven players with 30+ Career AV in seven drafts. Outside of Talib (who, being a moron aside, is an excellent CB) and Zuttah (who provided a lot of value for a third-round pick), there's basically nothing there to be excited by considering draft position. Sure, Gruden was not solely responsible for drafting (thanks, Rich McKay), but he's in that process, and the team drafted consistently god-freaking-awfully.

Hiring Gruden on a normal contract is something I would think would be a bad idea. This contract is so bad it makes me wonder if Al crawled out of the grave and started making decisions again.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:04pm

I guess you have to separate Jon Gruden the coach from Jon Gruden the GM. He apparently bought (or helped buy) terrible groceries, yet managed to make a somewhat edible meal out of them (winning seasons in 3 out of his last 4 years). If you squint real hard, maybe you can argue that taking a chance on him as coach makes sense as long as you keep him 100 miles away from the draft room.

Even then, this contract is insane. But it's not my money, so what the hell do I know?

by galactic_dev :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 1:26pm

Agreed. It must be his charisma, and not his analytical abilities since in the booth he just pronounces every week, "Somebody has to step up and make a play."

by drobviousso :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:14pm

This is insane.

by theslothook :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:18pm

Why? Someone explain to me why he is somehow thought of so fondly and yet Brian Billick can't sniff a head coaching job?

Even if you like Gruden as a head coach, what in the world are you doing giving a 10 year contract? Does anyone besides RaiderJoe actually like this move? Because from what I can tell, this is about as insane a decision as I've ever witnessed. Only Belichick should get that kind of contract and perhaps not even then.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:44pm

He's thought of fondly by Mark Davis because he's the best HC Mark Davis can remember. John Madden wasn't available.

I'm sure the accountants have done the sums and figured out that in terms of franchise relocation giving Gruden $100m is worthwhile if it builds a fanbase. The merchandising opportunities for Chucky dolls and maybe a whole new film franchise tie-in! The ten years is just there to avoid pushing the annual salary of coaches up for all franchises - so you might as well spread it over ten years in case he's highly successful.

There's a generation of football players who've grown up watching him on ESPN who will be awed to be coached by him. I like Gruden. He understands the game and can communicate that understanding. He sets high expectations for players but he also tries to make it fun along the way.

What he did back in 1998 was a great job. What happened in Tampa was less fulfilling and leaves question marks about him. But the Tampa team was full of Dungy-professionals and culture and maybe he's better at setting his own culture on a team that's struggled.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:16pm

"He's thought of fondly by Mark Davis because he's the best HC Mark Davis can remember."

So is the Mark Davis haircut a (failed) attempt to emulate Jon Gruden's hair?

by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:09am

They won't be fond of him long if he can't win. I have a feeling Gruden worked when he was a hotshot nobody had ever heard of and he came on new and refreshing. But his act wore old. I remember a player calling him a liar and backstabber and it does strike me as his personality: say anything that'll get you through the moment and deal with the consequences later. Maybe he's grown, I don't know. We'll find out.

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:10pm

Interesting choice of Brian Billick as a comparison. Billick was an offensive coach who oversaw consistently mediocre-to-bad offenses as a head coach. At least Gruden occasionally produced some high-level offenses.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:08pm

Not in Tampa; again, imperfect reference point, but PFR shows the highest the Bucs ranked in points scored was 18th, and the best offensive player over his tenure is probably an old (but still effective) Joey Galloway. The best skill position player the Bucs drafted during his tenure was however many games Cadillac Williams got before he broke in two or that one year when Michael Clayton like football more than cheeseburgers. Gruden's reputation as an offensive genius largely comes from the success he and Rich Gannon had in building an excellent Oakland offense and in squeezing just enough offense out of that 2002 team to get them over the top. Well, theoretically; the 2002 defense was so good it might not have mattered anyways.

Gruden is very much like Billick in that both were lucky to have great defenses that helped them overcome really unimpressive offensive performances.

by Steve in WI :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:21pm

On one hand, this is insane because coaching contracts are fully guaranteed, and almost no coaches have historically been worth a 10-year commitment.

On the other hand, there's no salary cap for coaches so it's only money. If Gruden is a colossal embarrassment and they want to fire him at any time, they just have to eat the money. It's a ton of money, true, but it doesn't ruin the future prospects of the team like a bad player contract can.

Perhaps this will help Gruden attract the best assistants, since he's got more job security than the average just-hired hear coach?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:13pm

"Perhaps this will help Gruden attract the best assistants"

Well, apparently he's tabbed Paul Guenther as his DC, which is okay, I guess. But his OC is supposedly going to be Greg Olson, which is about the least exciting hire I can think of this side of Brian Schottenheimer.

by billprudden :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:21pm

Whatever you think of his coaching ability, you have to admit that he and his agent played this perfectly. Instead of wanting back in, he pretended he couldn't care less. He used ESPN to promote his own image. He went to the one team that was most desperate to create buzz. He got paid, and, presumably, power. Well done, sir, well done.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:14pm

deleted...replied to wrong thread.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:44pm

In a little known addendum to the contract, 99 of the 100 million is in the form of gift certificates from the Vegas P.F. Changs, and another half million is for haircuts from a barber shop in Palm Springs.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:46pm

I'm wondering who will win the power struggle of haircuts.

Is Davis trying but failing to get a haircut like Gruden, or will Gruden be ordered to adopt the basin ...

by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:50pm

I'm sitting here laughing, thinking of that latter domejob becoming the required cut for all Raider employees, women included.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:00pm

also Raider logo to remove helmet and have Captain Kangaroo bowl cut.

Raiders not concerned with good hairdos anyway. more concerned with winning which si what will be happening regularly now that Del Rio is gone

by Sixknots :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:43pm

No, Davis is trying to smuggle Kim's barber out of North Korea.

by Cythammer :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:51pm

Well, I think the correct strategy for achieving success with a franchise is building continuity, rather than switching coaches and GMs every two or three years like teams like the Browns do, so at least this has that going for it. It's just that ten years is a really, really long time for someone who last had sustained success in the NFL about 15 years ago. I don't think anyone can know what we'll be seeing from Gruden at this point, so making such a huge commitment is a big risk.

by jds :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:05pm

No one coaches the same team in the NFL for 10 years - except the ones that do. I think there are about a half dozen guys who might be in that range now, and Marvin Lewis is one of them. So if you think you have got a guy as good as Marvin Lewis, maybe a 10 year deal is not as crazy as I originally thought it was.

by Richie :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:21pm

I, for one, will miss Gruden's QB Camp each Spring.

by barf :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:22pm

I see the Raider golf visor business going through the roof.

by barf :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:27pm

As a Chiefs fan, I am all for this. I think Derek Carr fleeced the Raiders and is this generation's version of Jeff George, except he's not an a-hole.

Not impressed with Vance Joseph at Denver, although to be fair, John Elway isn't walking onto that field anytime soon. Their QB situation is a disaster.

Now, if the Chargers could get Norv Turner back as head coach. They could easily be in this year's playoffs, if they could only stop Charger-ing.

Yes, even with Andy Reid's bad clock management and tendency for cutesy plays at really inopportune times, the Chiefs could rule the AFC West for years to come.

by jtr :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:29pm

Are you ready for some

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:40pm

Who does everyone think will replace Gruden on MNF? I for one, really hope it's Bruce Arians.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:09pm

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:25pm

jack del rio

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:34pm

I'd have thought Jim Caldwell is the perfect prospect ready to liven up the show :-D

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:36pm

Are we honestly sure Jim Caldwell didn't die on the sideline at some point this year and nobody noticed? I mean, could you really tell?

by barf :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:47pm

Hold a mirror up to his mouth and nose? That might tell you something.

by serutan :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:47pm

Makes me think of that "Many Faces of Jim Caldwell" jpeg from his Colts days
Was wr

by Sixknots :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:49pm

Jeff Fisher

I kid, please no, I kid.

by morganja :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 7:40pm

Bill Belichick!

by ncuba :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 8:14pm

This would be fantastic. So much awkward silence but when something catches his interest he gets really into it until like two more plays have been run.

by RobotBoy :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 5:55am

It has to be Pagano. Or Ray Lewis. Or both.

by jtr :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:00pm

Arians would be great, but ESPN would never tolerate it. I'm pretty sure that most of Gruden's THIS GUY, YOU TALK ABOUT A FOOTBALL PLAYER schtick was ESPN-mandated. I think the ESPN execs are really convinced that if anyone ever said anything bad about a football player, it would reflect poorly on football itself and thus destroy MNF ratings. So everything has to be about how great everything is, and the commentators must get goofier and goofier in order for everything to be MORE FUN. Remember when they put Kornheiser into the MNF booth to crack painfully bad jokes in between plays? That's a pretty revealing look into what they think the MNF booth needs. They'd never tolerate somebody like Collinsworth who will actually point it out when someone makes a bad play, and Arians is probably even more brash than Collinsworth is.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 3:44pm

I know I'm in the minority by a wide margin in this, but I thought Dennis Miller was pretty entertaining

by MilkmanDanimal :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 6:06pm

I really thought Gruden's first year in the booth he was very good, and he was definitely critical and full of detailed football insight. He apparently got sat down in the offseason and told to be a twit, so he just started spouting the same overly-positive stuff you usually hear. Was really disappointing, as I liked him at first before he greatly dumbed stuff down.

by Will Allen :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 8:27am

They did the same thing to Jaworski, who started out pretty insightful, and then descended into babbling mindless hyperbole. Football game television producers generally hate football fans

by Richie :: Tue, 01/09/2018 - 1:22pm

Kornheiser (and Dennis Miller) was an attempt to re-create the magic of Howard Cosell. Neither worked, but I think they were good attempts. I like when they try unusual ideas.

by serutan :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:52pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't Mark gotten himself up
to his anal orifice in debt with the new stadium even after
suckering Vegas for the subsidy? This isn't going to help
that at all. And if the Raiders get off to a slow start in
Vegas, there could be a financial meltdown...

Was wr

by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 6:44pm

I don't know about the specifics of the funding for the new stadium, but Davis IS the poorest owner (for the NFL definition of "poorest", i.e., not a billionaire), and that was raised several times as one of the reason the Raiders couldn't chip in to help fund a new stadium in Oakland proper.

Not that $100 million over 10 years is enough to build a stadium, but it is worth at least hrmmming about, I suppose.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 8:58pm


by dbostedo :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 8:58pm


by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:14am

Might be enough to buy a few hammers and do some good hmmmmmmmering.

by Sixknots :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:32pm

I think it's a good financial move in the short term (5 yrs ish). It should put butts in seats in pissed-off Oakland with the team leaving town in two years. And Gruden's personality could sell tickets and seat licenses in Vegas when they get there (assuming he doesn't completely bomb as a coach).

But 10 years...I dunno...hmmmmm.

by Richie :: Tue, 01/09/2018 - 1:28pm

There's probably only about 50 coaches who have ever coached a team for 10 years in a row. (According to PFR there are only 68 coaches who have lasted 10+ years regardless of team.) The chances of Gruden lasting 10 years seems very slim. But it's just money.

Looking at the list, I was surprised to see that Mike Holmgren actually coached the Seahawks longer (and won more games) than he did for the Packers. But Holmgren is still in my mind mainly as a Packers coach.


by mrh :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:17pm

Mark Davis:Jon Gruden :: Daniel Snyder:Joe Gibbs

by MaineRaider :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 10:38am

This is absurd. I was so irritated when the rumors starting circulating that I wrote a letter to Mark Davis hitting some key points of objection, although it's unlikely he'll read it. Gruden's Super Bowl title owed a lot to the sheer luck of facing his former team and a lot to Dungy's legacy. Gruden had a cumulative losing record after his first season in Tampa Bay and never won another playoff game. He hasn't coached in 9 years. His commentary on ESPN is often a mass of trite statements, cliches, and factual inaccuracies. He doesn't seem to have stayed abreast of advances in the game, such as sophisticated statistical analysis. The Art Shell and Joe Gibbs returns to their former teams did not accomplish much. Other candidates have far better potential and could be paid a reasonable salary.

I mean, for $100 million he'd have to be the second coming of Bill Walsh.

Between this and the abandonment of California, maybe I should choose a new team to root for.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 10:49am

Please do not mention Joe Gibbs and Art Shell in the same sentence, and although Gibbs second stint in D.C. did not have huge success, compared to the norm since Snyder bought the team, it was pretty good. Whatever deficiencies existed really were despite Gibbs' good work, not because of it.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 11:59am

On the other hand ... Dick Vermeil was even more successful after 15 years out of the league than in his first stint.

by Sixknots :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 2:08pm

Also Pete Carroll

by Kevin from Philly :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 3:23pm

Yes, but Carroll ran a pretty successful pro team between gigs in the NFL

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 5:15pm


by Raiderfan :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 4:16pm


by Richie :: Tue, 01/09/2018 - 1:31pm

Coaching and commentating are two different jobs. Assuming he can't coach because you don't like his commentary is ridiculous.

by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 01/12/2018 - 4:33am

I'm pretty sure no one's saying that. They're saying he can't coach because he doesn't seem to understand the basics of modern football, as his broadcasts prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

by Lebo :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:44pm

What has coaching salary inflation looked like recently? Perhaps, in seven years' time, $10m per year will be a bargain.

by Raiderfan :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:45pm

What a waste. Wish I could share RaiderJoes's enthusiasm but I cannot.

by amin purshottam :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 1:07am

Not sold on Gruden. Still not sold on Carr either. I still think Chargers are the team to beat in the West next year.

by BJR :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 1:05pm

I don't see the Chiefs declining markedly unless Mahomes turns out to be terrible, or they do something ridiculous like fire Reid. They've averaged double-digit wins in the Reid era and that's a tough benchmark for the others to beat.

by Sixknots :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 11:09pm

Agree with BJR. Also have questions about Rivers. Is he hitting/about to hit the QB age wall?

by Rhys :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:52am

"At $10 million per year, it also immediately makes him the highest-paid head coach in the NFL."

To be fair, as far as I can tell, BB at 7.5M/yr was just Forbes talking out of its ass with a grain of salt and then slowly being accepted as gospel after some telephone tag; nobody has actual physical details on his contract since he isn't in the union. I think some talking head intimated BB is north of $10M/yr just a few days ago, and it wouldn't shock me at all if he was much higher than that.

by Will Allen :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:33pm

I'd be shocked if he earns less than 12, maybe less than 15. I wouldn't be shocked if he is at 20. He's a smart guy who can assess his performance without excessive inflation or modesty, and he certainly knows how much Kraft is earning. He wouldn't be out of line in asking for more than 20.

by Athelas :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 1:39pm

I have always imagined there being one salary for Belichcik/Ernie Adams and at the end of the year they split what was made from Adams investing it. I wonder how wealthy Adams is? He certainly doesn't spend the money on material things.

by Alternator :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 11:01pm

There is really no number that would surprise me with Belichick's contract; if he's making $20m a year, it's not part of a salary cap so more power to him. If he's making $5m a year and Kraft makes anonymous donations to Navy football, I'd believe that too.

by ChicagoRaider :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 12:16pm

One does wonder what was going through people's heads. It is not like Gruden was the only possible head coach out there. He had success in bursts, has been out of coaching for a long time, and had reasonable competition. If you have someone you know you love in place, and want to do a 10 year extension, I can see that.

Nobody is a good enough decision maker to do what the Raiders have done and not regret it without being phenomenally lucky. 10 years is 3 eternities in the NFL.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 1:48pm

To put 10 years into perspective: the last time a head coach even lasted five years with the Raiders, they were still the in LA. That was Art Shell, who coached them from 1989-1994. Since then they have had twelve head coaches, none of whom lasted for even half as long as this Gruden deal. Twelve head coaches in 23 seasons means they're averaging just a hair under 2 seasons per coach since they moved back to Oakland. Pretty bold to say that all of a sudden they'll be set for 10 years.

by ChicagoRaider :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 3:45pm

To be fair, working for Al Davis and working for Mark Davis have to be two totally different things. I don't think the high turnover under Al Davis is going to carry over to Mark. I am not sure how Reggie McKenzie figures in here. Reggie can't like that the coach has more job security than he does.

by Richie :: Tue, 01/09/2018 - 1:36pm

The Raiders have had 6 full seasons since Davis died. They have had 2 coaches (and an interim coach) during that time. So they are averaging 3 seasons per head coach. That's over a 50% increase from the Al Davis days!

by erniecohen :: Tue, 01/09/2018 - 5:58pm

The deal is reportedly more like $5M/yr for 5 years, followed by $15M/yr for 5 years (taking advantage of the lower Nevada tax rates). Plus, nobody knows how much of it is guaranteed. No way he finishes out this contract.