A Political and Football Look At Jon Gruden

I have to preface this article with a note that (a) the opinions and ideas written here are strictly that of the author and do not represent the entirety of Pro Football Press, and (b) this article will get political. If this is a bother to you, click away now. If not, let’s take a political and football look at the Jon Gruden situation.

Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned from his position as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. This move followed a report from The New York Times about the bigoted language he used in emails as recently as 2018. This new report follows an earlier report in which Gruden used a racist trope to describe NFLPA union president DeMaurice Smith, who is black. Gruden said in a statement, “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Anytime we see someone who has past comments and beliefs exposed to the world, there are always two sides developed. One side impugns the person in question, criticizes them, and calls for them to face some sort of repercussion. The other side immediately runs to social media to call anyone who doesn’t like these comments/beliefs soft snowflakes and rage about cancel culture. And the cancel culture/culture war discourse is one that refuses to die down online.

So, I will not shy away from it, because I believe that Jon Gruden needed to go. And in this piece, I want to look at why Gruden isn’t a victim of being canceled for things he said years ago, as well as why Gruden needed to go from strictly a football point of view. Once again, if political discourse is something you wish to avoid, skip this piece. If it’s something that does not bother you, follow along with me.

A Political Examination

Jon Gruden
Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri/AP

Jon Gruden is not a victim. The New York Times and the National Football League did not systematically single him out, and he is not a victim of this nefarious “cancel culture” that internet conservatives and centrists love to complain about. The only thing that Gruden could be a victim of currently is karma. This is a man who now has to live with the consequences of his own actions.

It seems like the most obvious and agreeable thing in the world. When someone says something racist, homophobic, sexist, etc, that person rightly deserves any backlash they receive. And yet we live in a world where a brigade of reactionary white knights will reflexively defend any sort of situation involving bigoted comments. Usually, this comes under the guise of being against cancel culture. There’s also a very popular argument that people can change. They’re not the same person now that they were back when those comments were made.

Honestly? I agree with that last sentiment. I’m a firm believer that people absolutely can change. I believe in reformative justice for everyone. However, my issue with this argument is that Jon Gruden hasn’t changed. There’s no evidence of this being a situation of Gruden saying something back then that he’s later changed his mind on. Again, he was using this type of language as recently as in 2018. That is rather recent. And while three years is definitely an amount of time in which a person can grow and change, let’s not pretend that the most old-school coach in the NFL before his resignation, bar maybe Detroit’s Dan Campbell, is secretly some huge liberal or progressive.

No Sympathy Warranted

I’m also not on the “Gruden was singled out” train. The investigation into the 650,000 emails had little to do with Gruden himself. It was an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct within the Washington Football Team. His language was discovered because the group he sent the emails to included Bruce Allen, a former executive with the Washington Football Team. After finding Gruden’s first email that included a racist trope, only then did more of his comments receive any extra scrutiny. This doesn’t feel like someone getting singled out by cancel culture. It feels like someone got caught doing something wrong, and further examination brought more wrongdoing to light.

Jon Gruden made his bed, and now he has to lie in it. For all the talk conservative media will make about how “cancel culture strikes again,” this one doesn’t fit. Leaving aside the fact that cancel culture is just a spooky buzzword these days, this isn’t the case of someone getting canceled for out-of-context comments or beliefs they no longer hold. Gruden is the same now as he was then, and it is for that reason that Jon Gruden is only a victim of himself. He now has to live with his actions, which have now recently cost him his enshrinement in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ring of honor.

A Football Purview

Jon Gruden
Photo Credit: Ben Liebenberg/AP

Online political discourse aside, Jon Gruden also needed to go from a sheer football point of view. He was coaching in a league where 70% of the players are black. He was coaching the first team in NFL history to field an openly gay player, defensive lineman Carl Nassib. There’s absolutely no way Gruden could have come back into that locker room knowing that their coach essentially puts on a mask in front of them that he takes off privately.

If you’re Carl Nassib, how do you reconcile the fact that your coach used homophobic slurs freely and without care? How do you reconcile him pushing for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to pressure the then-St. Louis Rams into not drafting an openly gay player, Michael Sam, in the 2014 NFL Draft? How do you trust a man who says one thing to your face but mocks you to his friends in private?

If you’re a black player on the Raiders, how do you reconcile his locker room behavior with his private use of racist tropes to describe another black man? If you’ve kneeled for the national anthem, how do you reconcile his private push for more punishments for those who take a knee? How do you reconcile his desire to see former 49ers and Panthers safety Eric Reid “fired” for his protests? If you’re an advocate for social justice causes, how could you trust a coach who wants to curtail NFL involvement in these sorts of issues?

There was just no way for Gruden to continue with this team. It would lead to much distraction, too much to reconcile, and too much distrust. The Raiders organization could no longer ignore it, not with the NFL waiting to see how the team would respond to these emails. Not with this being public knowledge like it is now. The NFL couldn’t ignore it, given their public drive to be more inclusive and diverse.

So, even removed from online political discourse, there was just no way for Gruden to keep this job.


Jon Gruden
Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Regardless of how you slice this, Jon Gruden had to go. The NFL couldn’t allow Gruden to continue, given their public desire to be more inclusive and diverse. The Raiders organization couldn’t allow it to continue. And it was in the players’ best interest for Gruden to step away from this organization.

Simply put, this is who Jon Gruden is. Even in his statement to the media following his resignation, there was no genuine remorse for his language. “I never meant to hurt anyone,” he said. And yet, he meant to hurt people. No one in Gruden’s position uses that kind of language without the intent to hurt someone. And even without the language, there’s still the fact that he actively pushed to prevent an openly gay player from being drafted.

That would be enough to know that he intended to hurt people. Add in that he was also against the NFL’s push to decrease concussions, and we can see that in a literal and figurative sense, Jon Gruden intended to hurt people. Or, at the very least, he was okay with people being hurt. Anything to take this game back to 1998, I suppose.

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @LovelyDegree160! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content PFP has to offer here!

Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/AP

Tom Brady Won’t Reminisce, but Fans Will

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will be hearing the same question for the rest of this week until his primetime matchup against his old team of 20 years, the New England Patriots. “How do you feel about playing up against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, in a stadium you made countless memories in?”. Brady has consistently blocked out the noise. He’s made his pleasantries to Coach Belichick, Robert Kraft, and his former teammates. Acknowledging just how much this game means to the NFL at large. But in typical Brady fashion, he stops it there.

On the other side, Belichick hasn’t exactly given too much to the media either. He often never does play into the hype. But he did give us this nugget about the 2020 free agency, where TB12 took his talents to Tampa Bay. Belichick in his weekly call-in to WEEI on Monday said; “There were a lot of things there that … he looked at his options and made his decision. We weren’t as good an option as Tampa, so I mean, you’d have to ask him about all of that… it wasn’t a question of not wanting him. That’s for sure.”

Fans will always be nostalgic

All storylines aside, nobody reasonable could expect the watchers to just focus on the now. We are nostalgists at heart. From the fans at 50+ to the younger guys like me who only started watching after Super Bowl XLVI (still can’t believe Eli Manning made that sideline throw. Much respect). This week is the perfect time to go down memory lane.

This week I caught myself watching old Patriots games in the background while doing some classwork. I say old, but it’s more like 2015. The Thursday Night Football matchup against the Dolphins to be exact. They started off 6-0 and made it 7 with a dominating win against Miami. It was thrilling to see the prime Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection, along with Julian Edelman being as reliable as ever on third down.

Who is the greatest NFL QB of all-time? A 5th ring for Tom Brady could  change things.

I was dumbfounded when seeing some of the names on the roster that are no longer on the team. Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis (who was exceptional in that season before tearing his ACL against Washington), among countless others. Sure, roster turnover happens all the time. But for many fans, their childhood Patriots team is being wiped away before their eyes. There are just five players left from the Super Bowl XLIX winning roster on the current roster.

Seeing Tom Brady play against the Patriots isn’t something many Patriots fans fathomed as a reality until the Summer of 2019. Many until the second he tweeted “FOREVER A PATRIOT” with a three-page statement basically ripping the heart out of the tri-state area on St. Patrick’s Day 2020.

Little love lost for Tom Brady from Patriots fans

Still, New England fans are still enamored by their former quarterback. I’m willing to bet at least a sixth of fans in Gillette on Sunday night will be wearing Tom Brady’s new jersey. It’s not often players have that kind of pull when switching teams. Peyton Manning is probably the only name that I can think of where fans followed him from Indy to Denver. The pull that Brady has in the Boston fanbase, one that is typically only loyal to Boston and that’s it, is extraordinary. I’m not saying that the typical Patriots fan left with TB12 to Tampa, but a whole lot of them smiled when he lifted up that Lombardi Trophy for a seventh time. Even if he wasn’t representing the Patriots anymore, he still felt like a major part of our football lives.

Tom Brady's seventh Super Bowl win ends NFL's most challenging year | The  Japan Times

Sunday night football will be loaded with plenty of difficult emotions. As we discussed, for a long time Brady was the only thing some fans knew. Myself included. Seeing him go against the team that we all loved won’t be easy. But ultimately, most of you reading are Patriots fans first. So let’s just hope Tom gives us a good game and we’ll go from there. I wouldn’t be shocked if TB12 and Gronk get a standing ovation from the crowd before kickoff and fans bring signs that read “thank you TB12”. I know it’s easy to say it’ll be all business come Sunday, but we all know that isn’t exactly true.

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @KalebEmcee! Feel free to check out the work I do on Foxboro Beat! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content PFP has to offer here!

What to Expect from Rookie Joe Tryon

Joe Tryon has been “whipping a lot of guys’ asses” in training camp week, but what does that mean for the 2021 Buccaneers?

Photo: Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As if there wasn’t already enough to celebrate in Tampa, the 2021 Buccaneers are bringing the band back together. Every single starter and major role player from last years’ team is back on board. For fans of the team, this is an unusual luxury. For 2021 Buccaneer first-round draft pick Joe Tryon, it’s a major hurdle.

Joe Tryon is set to back up two of the stingiest pass rushers in the league. Shaq Barrett played in roughly 82% of the snaps during the 15 games he participated in, and Jason Pierre-Paul was on the field for 89% of all 16 regular-season games last year. This left last year’s third OLB, former 3rd round pick Anthony Nelson, with a measly 30% of the defensive snaps.

No matter how many asses Tryon whips in training camp this summer, it’s going to be difficult to convince newly extended defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to take one of his star pass rushers off the field. Tryon will likely replace Nelson for third on the 2021 depth chart, but that doesn’t guarantee any more snaps than Nelson got last year.

So, we’re benching a first rounder?

Tryon will only see the field for the majority of a game this season due to injury, plain and simple. The 2020 Buccaneers were one of the most fortunate teams in regards to injury, but injury luck is fickle. With no major holes on the roster to fill, General Manager Jason Licht wisely decided to spend his first-round selection on pass rush insurance for 2021. This has the added benefit of allowing Tryon to comfortably grow into his role as a potential starter over the next few years.

This doesn’t mean Jason Licht reached for a pick or that Tryon is terrible if we don’t see much of Tryon this year. If Shaq and JPP are healthy for 16 games they will start all 16 games, and this is a good thing. If Shaq twists an ankle or JPP reaggravates any of his various injuries then Tryon will play full time.

Until then, we should expect to not see much of Joe Tryon in the regular season. My prediction: 35% defensive snap count, barring injury.

Check out the rest of our team coverage and other opinion pieces!

Training Camp Standouts in the AFC

Training camp is an exciting time for NFL teams and fans alike. It’s an opportunity to see which players have used their offseason wisely and how the team has progressed as a whole. Some players show up looking like entirely new people, while others stagnate without direct guidance. Of course, of all the players that improved in the offseason, some stand out among the rest. The following players are the ones making the most noise in training camp so far.

1. Bryan Edwards, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

Bryan Edwards catches a pass in 2020 training camp.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Bryan Edwards (89) trains during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Raiders selected Edwards with the 81st pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was a big-bodied outside receiver with intriguing Yards After Catch (YAC for short) potential. However, they sidelined Edwards for most of the year, leading to a disappointing stat line for the first-year wideout of 11 receptions on just 15 targets for 193 yards and a single touchdown. He struggled with an ankle injury most of the year as well, further limiting his involvement and production. In short, 2020 was a busted year for Edwards.

This year, things seem to be different. Edwards has been tearing up training camp, earning high praise from teammates with impressive contested catches. Hunter Renfrow said, “You can’t guard him when he’s locked in.” Most importantly, he’s earned the praise of his head coach and play-caller, Jon Gruden. Gruden claimed that Edwards “…looks like T.O. (Terrell Owens, pro football Hall of Famer), he looks like one of the number one wideouts in the league.”

Now hold on, Gruden. Comparing a second-year wide receiver with 11 catches to their name to Terrell Owens is clearly a step too far. However, while we shouldn’t take Gruden’s word as gospel, it’s still exciting to hear for Raiders fans. While it’s unlikely Edwards will leap from first-year disappointment to being one of the better receivers in the league in one offseason, the strong praise is encouraging and hints at a heavily increased role going into his second year. His large frame at 6’3″ and YAC potential offer a unique skillset for Jon Gruden to dial up plays for. If impressing his coach wasn’t enough, playing alongside talented players like Henry Ruggs III and Darren Waller will only help Edwards take a huge step into year 2.

2. Trey Smith, IOL, Kansas City Chiefs

Trey Smith taking reps in training camp.

Trey Smith, man. The narrative surrounding Smith heading into the 2021 NFL Draft was simple- Day one talent, undrafted medicals. Smith suffered from blood clots in his lungs not once, but twice during his career with the Tennessee Volunteers. According to Smith “That was brutal, because it was like, ‘Dang, am I going to die? Just be real. Am I going to die? What’s going on?'” After several talks with his doctors about his future playing football, Smith believed he understood any risks and that he had a future playing in the NFL.

Despite Smith’s personal confidence, it’s safe to say many teams were scared away by his medical history. He fell all the way to the 226th pick in the 6th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Finally, the Chiefs took a chance on him. So far, the results have been outstanding. Smith has been mauling defensive linemen left and right throughout practice, turning each 1-1 session into his own personal highlight film.

Smith is a massive human, standing 6’5″ tall, weighing 321 pounds, and boasting a wingspan of 82 and 1/8 inches. That wingspan is in the 94th percentile of all offensive guards since 1999, by the way. He finished above-average in every physical drill and measurement at his pro day besides the 20-yard shuttle and 20 yard split in his 40-yard dash. In short, Smith is HUGE but lacks foot speed, hence his position of guard despite tackle measurements. Still, as his highlights show, once he gets his hands on a defensive lineman, the rep is over. Expect to see a lot of won reps in 2021 for the talented guard from Tennessee.

3. James Proche, WR, Baltimore Ravens

James Proche looks in a pass at Ravens training camp.

James Proche may not have been the most anticipated receiver entering Baltimore’s training camp this year, but he’s been playing like it. The team added several Wide Receivers through the draft and free agency to fix a major weakness on the team. Proche’s performance thus far is making a case they would have been fine solving the issue in-house.

Proche has been turning in strong practice after strong practice, making a once-close position battle with Miles Boykin into a runaway victory. In the process, his play has loudly demanded not just a roster spot, but a prominent role in the offense. He’s made impressive catches in every practice and frequently finds openings in the defense to haul in passes.

So what caused this sudden growth? Well, Proche always had incredible hands – he only had 9 drops on 456 targets in college, according to PFF. That works out to a %2.05 drop rate, good for second in the country during his time at SMU to Texas’s Devin Duvernay, now his teammate. This year, it seems he’s polished his route running, resulting in more open looks. His hands and natural ball skills also mean he can come down with a pass even when he isn’t open. The combination of consistent separation and playmaking even when covered makes him an easy player to throw to for any QB.

While Proche probably won’t see many targets this year due to the highly anticipated trio of Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Marquise Brown taking snaps in front of him, he looks to be an excellent WR4 option.

Of course, there have been many more standouts throughout training camp. Too many to cover, in fact. If you’re interested in seeing more coverage, we have new content and team coverage coming out regularly.