By Pete Baxter
It was reported on Monday by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that, according to sources, Jon Gruden has notified the Las Vegas Raiders that he intends to resign as head coach of the team. Gruden’s rapid downfall began last week when a racially charged email he had sent aimed at NFLPA Chief DeMaurice Smith from 2011 was made public. Over this past weekend, things went from bad to worse for the veteran coach.
Goodbye and Good Riddance, Gruden
A trove of emails from Gruden sent during the same time frame were discovered via a separate investigation into workplace misconduct. The five to seven emails reportedly flagged by the league contain tirades containing further inflammatory content including misogynist (aimed at the hiring of female officials) and homophobic attacks (specifically in response to the Ram’s supposedly feeling pressure to draft openly gay player Michael Sam). Gruden even took aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, referring to him as a “p****y” in response to the Commissioner’s handling of player safety policies among other issues.
Unsurprisingly, this marks the end of the road for Gruden in Las Vegas. This is still a shocking situation that continues to unfold. It has to be a heartbreaking, disappointing situation for the embattled Raiders’ players who seemed to finally be hitting their stride under Gruden’s leadership.
Who Saw This Coming?
I certainly don’t want to make light of the seriousness of Gruden’s transgressions in this article as my focus shifts to more football-related issues. The fact that a successful, respected leader in his industry could both quietly harbor such deplorable values while also lacking the self-awareness and basic common sense to keep his hateful thoughts out of professional communications is truly amazing (though still more common than we like to believe across all industries).
However, even last week (early in the development of this controversy) Gruden, thanks to his overall positive reputation and past success within in the league (along with the majority of his massive 10-year deal) seemed to be relatively safe in his job.
If you were taking prop bets for the most likely coaches to be fired first this season, Gruden still would have ranked below Urban Meyer, Matt Nagy and Joe Judge at the very least. Even longtime coaching legends like Pete Carroll and last year’s favorites like Brian Flores are slowly feeling the heat and likely would have been considered at higher risk than Gruden. Mike McCarthy actually had the highest odds of losing his job according to Vegas prior to the season.
Gruden should absolutely be out as Raider’s head coach, as any professional in any industry would be (particularly those in a leadership role).
Brief Tangent: Can someone teach these aging NFL coaches how the internet works? They are the faces of massive, international corporations and role models for 70+ players and billions of fans around the world. They are in the public eye on a similar level to the Royal Family. Can someone please tell these dirty old men that if they want to act like perverted, immoral children in emails or in crowded bars, they might as well just upload their b******t directly to TMZ? But alas, it is ultimately better that these guys who fancy themselves “untouchable” out themselves before they can do any more damage, so keep it up, Gramps!
How Many Coaches Could Go by the End of 2021?
The 2020 NFL season saw seven head coaches lose their jobs by the end of the season. Bill O’Brien (Texans), Matt Patricia (Lions), Dan Quinn (Falcons), Doug Marrone (Jaguars), Anthony Lynn (Chargers), Adam Gase (Jets) and Doug Pederson all headed to the unemployment line. Could we see this impressive total be exceeded this season?
Jon Gruden is out.
Urban Meyer has been a complete and utter disaster during his brief tenure in Jacksonville. He has alienated his players, team ownership, and even disappointed Tim Tebow (twice). If he makes it to the end of the season, it would be an incredible feat. He could be gone by the time Jacksonville returns from their bye week.
Matt Nagy seemed destined to be gone by midseason after horribly mishandling the team’s quarterback controversy and then seemingly setting his first-round pick rookie up for failure in his first start. That same rookie, Justin Fields, is doing his best to save Nagy’s job in back-to-back wins. That said, if the team loses their recent momentum and misses the playoffs, the odds will be stacked against Nagy to return in 2022.
Joe Judge has been unable to get the Giants back on track. They managed to stay in the playoff hunt in an abysmal division last year but seem to have regressed even further in 2021. General Manager Dave Gettleman is almost certainly out if they can’t string together enough wins this year, and if he goes, Judge likely is out as well.
Mike Zimmer has been unable to recapture the magic of his 2017 playoff run since swapping out Case Keenum for Kirk Cousins. The team was a disappointing 7-9 last season, and off to a slow start once again this season. If they fall short of the playoffs again, the Vikings may very well move for a reset.
We are just five weeks into the season and there are five guys who are either out or very likely on their way out by seasons end. It doesn’t end there, as there are a couple more seats slowly heating up as the season progresses:
It’s Early, But These Guys Might Want to Update Their Resumes (Just in Case)
Brian Flores, who had gained praise over the past two seasons in Miami for making the most out of a bad roster (including an impressive 10-6 season in 2020), is suddenly in danger of losing his team. The Dolphins are a disappointing 1-4 and Tua Tagovailoa seemed to be regressing even before his injury.
Now, a since deleted Instagram post from Tua’s gym started a s***storm after a tirade against Flores’ coaching. Flores may have built up enough good will over the past two seasons to survive this, but the situation in Miami is worth keeping an eye on.
Pete Carroll has had a tremendous run in Seattle, including two Super Bowl appearances and one ring. However, it has been seven years since that peak, and over the past two seasons a massive rift has been driven between the legendary coach and his star quarterback, Russell Wilson. It is believed that there is a strong possibility that Wilson once again seeks a trade after this season, looking for a fresh start away from Pete Carroll. Is there any chance the Seahawks set their sights on retaining Wilson, and parting ways with their 70-year-old head coach? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.
Bill Belichick forced Tom Brady out of New England, only to watch his former quarterback win a Super Bowl in year one in Tampa Bay and continue to light up the league this season at age 44. Meanwhile, the Patriots are well on their way to a second straight season of mediocrity with no clear path ahead.
Obviously, Belichick has earned himself a long leash as arguably the greatest NFL coach of all time. However, if this thing goes off the rails, does owner Robert Kraft harbor enough ill will about Belichick’s handling of Brady to consider going in another direction?
This may seem ridiculous to consider a 4-1 coach on the “hot seat,” but let’s not forget that we have seen this before from the Cowboys. They have plenty of time to run this train off the tracks, and if it happens, McCarthy will certainly take the brunt of the blame. This season of Hard Knocks seemed to highlight a growing rift between the coach and his star quarterback Dak Prescott. At this point he is certainly safe, but how long will the Cowboy’s keep up this hot pace?
Honorable mention to struggling young coaches Nick Sirianni in Philadelphia and Dan Campbell in Detroit, who, barring any massive Gruden-esque debacles, will be giving at least a second season in their respective cities to continue to build their programs.
Buckle Up for a Fascinating Season
There is virtually a zero percent chance that we see all of the aforementioned coaches leaving their respective towns in 2021. However, just five games into the season, there is clearly an abundance of coaching ineptitude. Gruden certainly holds the current crown for career self-destruction, however.
Ultimately, this is why the NFL is king. The only thing more fun than the action is the drama. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy season.
More to come.