Last night, in case you haven’t heard, Las Vegas Raiders head coach and NFL legend Jon Gruden resigned a job paying $10 million a year.
Why did he do that? Were the Raiders in a downward spiral? Nope – they’re 3-2, very much in the playoff hunt.
Did Gruden get arrested or commit some sort of crime? Nope – he’s never had any trouble of that sort and nothing has changed.
So what happened?
Well, e-mails Gruden sent to individuals when he was working as a color analyst for ESPN got out, and the media spun up a cancel-fest on Gruden so quickly that he thought he had no choice but to quit an eight-figure job.
Jon Gruden has resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders following reports that emails he wrote over a 10-year period included racist, misogynistic and anti-gay language.
“I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction,” Gruden said in a statement Monday night. “Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
This whole thing is intolerably stupid, but it just so happens that it’s a fantastic opportunity. As LSU needs a football coach in the worst way, here’s why the school’s athletic director Scott Woodward should jump all over it and bring Gruden to Baton Rouge right now.
1. Gruden is a top-tier football man
Nobody signs bad football coaches to 10-year, $100-million contracts, but that’s exactly what the Raiders did when they hired Gruden in 2018. And this was the fourth year of his second stint as the Raiders’ head coach; it was likely that he’d have the team back in the playoffs after rebuilding it from a total disaster. Gruden built the Raiders into a Super Bowl contender in his first stint from 1998-2001, and then won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. He made the playoffs twice more in Tampa despite fighting through a tough NFC South division and having a spotty front office during that time, and then he took the job as the color analyst on ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcasts.
Gruden is known as an offensive innovator and a high-profile leader of men. He’s a George Patton whose teams exude toughness and fight, and Gruden is know for developing players and getting maximum effort from them.
LSU fans have fantasized about getting Gruden going all the way back to when Nick Saban left for the Miami Dolphins in 2004. That would present him as past his prime; on the contrary, Gruden is only 58 years old. There’s no particular problem selling his football acumen to people who know the game.
2. An excellent brand needs an excellent coach
Ed Orgeron is going to be fired as LSU’s football coach soon. Many thought it would happen on Sunday after Orgeron’s team quit on the field during a 42-21 throttling at the hands of Kentucky in Lexington Saturday night. What’s notable is that nobody in the national media is defending him, less than two years removed from the magical 15-0 national championship season in 2019.
Why is that? Because the national media is very much aware that LSU belongs in the national title hunt every season. They all know LSU is one of those programs in college football – like Alabama, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and a few others – where the expectations, no matter what they are, are not outrageous. And such a program needs a coach a whole lot better than Ed Orgeron.
The last three coaches at LSU have won national championships. Nobody even thought the last two were particularly good, and they won anyway.
That should tell you something about LSU’s brand. It’s a big-time program. And yet, other than Nick Saban, who really became a big-name coach because of what he accomplished at LSU (he was known as a top-notch football man among insiders of the game while the head coach at Michigan State, but he hadn’t broken out on the big stage at that point), the coaches here have been little names.
Jerry Stovall. Mike Archer. Curley Hallman. Gerry DiNardo. Ed Orgeron.
Yes, Bill Arnsparger was something of a name – as an NFL assistant coach. LSU elevated Arnsparger as he elevated LSU. As for Les Miles, he was a pretty good coach from Oklahoma State, not a superstar.
What happens if you marry the LSU brand with an iconic coach? Especially one who, because of the stupid woke sensibilities of the NFL and the corporate media, isn’t going anywhere? How big could that be?
Let’s remember that Scott Woodward thinks big and goes big. This is the guy who hired Kim Mulkey. Who hired Jimbo Fisher. Who hired Chris Petersen at Washington. Woodward wants to put his stamp on LSU football with a larger-than-life coach. Well, here’s your guy.
3. Gruden did nothing wrong
Oh, but you can’t hire Jon Gruden. He’s too controversial.
Really? What is he guilty of?
Gruden sent private e-mails to Bruce Allen, who was the team president of the Washington Redskins at the time, saying things you wouldn’t say in public.
He sent them privately. PRIVATELY.
And what did he say?
Well, he said that NFL Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith had “lips the size of Michelin tires.” Which sounds like a racist comment, but Gruden explained that. There’s an old redneck saying which has it that liars have rubber lips, and what Gruden was saying was that Smith was a liar.
He’s not the only one who had that opinion of Smith. And it isn’t because Smith is black. And by the way, Smith does have big lips. So what?
Gruden’s Monday Night Football co-hosts immediately vouched for him and said Jon Gruden isn’t a racist. You can say things someone might interpret as racist without intending them to be interpreted that way, you know, and this can particularly happen when you are saying them PRIVATELY and someone not intended to be part of the conversation then reads them a decade later.
What else did Gruden say? Well, he called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a “f*ggot” and a “clueless anti-football p*ssy.” How many fans disagree with that? Goodell is the worst commissioner of any major sport in the world, and has been for a long time. Nobody in Louisiana has any use for Roger Goodell, not after he tried to go after mom-and-pop retailers for selling “Who Dat” t-shirts and not after the idiocy of Bountygate.
Gruden criticized players who kneeled for the National Anthem. Like it or not, he has the right to hold that private opinion.
And Gruden criticized Goodell for pressuring Rams head coach Jeff Fisher into drafting Michael Sam, an openly-gay defensive end from Missouri who ESPN had turned into a cause celebre. As a football man, Gruden knew that Sam wasn’t an NFL talent. He was too small to play defensive end and too slow to play linebacker, and the only reason he was being pushed as a draft prospect was that he was “out” as gay. Sam didn’t last in the NFL because he wasn’t any good. Seems like Gruden was right and told the truth.
Apparently, they don’t like the fact that Gruden used the word “queer.” Well, what’s the Q in LGBTQ? It’s queer, right? Gay people get to use words the rest of us can’t now? When was the election where we voted that policy in?
It turns out that the team Gruden was coaching until yesterday has an openly gay defensive end. Except Carl Nassib is actually a pretty good player. Gruden the supposed homophobe had no problem putting him on the field.
Oh – and Gruden trashed Joe Biden as a “nervous clueless p*ssy” when Biden was the vice president. Which apparently means you have to be a loyal Democrat even privately to coach football? What kind of idiocy is this?
So Jon Gruden, one of the best coaches in football, is out of a job for having PRIVATE opinions that he shared years before he took the Raiders job. If he’s not welcome to call games for ESPN anymore, that’s one thing. This is something else.
If what happened to Jon Gruden doesn’t offend you to your core, he’s not the problem. You are. We can’t wait until your private opinions are betrayed in public and the cancel mob comes for you. Don’t you dare complain when it’s your head on the guillotine, Robespierre.
4. Interim actually works for LSU
The story around town is that the main reason Orgeron didn’t get a pink slip on Sunday was that Woodward can’t find a suitable interim. There is no one on the current staff with any Division 1 head coaching experience, and reaching outside the program for an interim coach who’ll just take over for a handful of games isn’t really realistic.
Yes, but what if you can make your monster, earth-shaking hire, that you’d normally make right after Thanksgiving, right now? What if you could give your new coach a chance to put together a shakedown cruise for a few games, evaluate players and coaches on the current roster and start recruiting well in advance of the December signing date?
Gruden is available today. He could be brought in as soon as a deal is struck.
This flips all of the downside of an interim coach on its head. You go from worrying about recruits de-committing and players hitting the transfer portal as this season goes down the tubes to having an immediate injection of excitement.
And sure, a little controversy. But LSU’s fans wouldn’t give a damn about Gruden’s e-mails. He didn’t say anything in them that 90 percent of the fan base doesn’t agree with, and Gruden has been a popular name in every conversation about potential coaching hires for the better part of two decades even when he wasn’t gettable. We’re talking about an immediately full stadium when he’s hired.
Will the players and recruits be offended that a guy who sent politically incorrect PRIVATE e-mails is LSU’s new coach? Well, what if that guy has made the NFL playoffs five different times, was the face of Monday Night Football for all of the years these kids were getting interested in football and was making $10 million a year at his job? You don’t think Jon Gruden can sell himself to them when currently it’s Ed Orgeron who’s the face of the program?
Sure, it’s too late to have Gruden coach on Saturday against Florida. Bring him on for the Ole Miss game instead, and let him use the rest of the year as a pre-season. If he can find three wins somehow, you’re in a bowl game. If not, you’re hardly worse off than you are now.
5. Stop the woke suicide
Not to put too fine a point on this, but LSU actually desperately needs to detour from its current direction as a lousy woke hellhole. LSU had to back off its idiotic vaccine passport regime in Tiger Stadium last week, and not for scientific reasons – LSU’s money people were beginning to throw a fit about this being the only SEC school imposing those kinds of restrictions on its fans. And current school president William Tate built his reputation in academia writing scholarly papers about – we kid you not – how math is racist. Tate couldn’t even say, at the press conference after he was hired, whether the school Tigers mascot wouldn’t be on the chopping block because it was a reference to a Confederate military unit.
The money is furious at the administration at LSU, and has been since the university dumped World War II hero General Troy Middleton’s name off the library in a fit of wokeness.
It isn’t just the money, you know. There is a majority in the state legislature who are absolutely disgusted with LSU and are getting louder all the time about the woke agenda and how it needs to go away. LSU had to back off a demand for permission to increase its student fees as a result of that opposition.
By the way, the prospective candidates with the best chances to win the 2023 governor’s race are already talking about massive housecleanings at LSU – on the Board of Supervisors and in the administration – because of all the woke stuff going on on that campus.
Not to mention the losing. And we’re not talking about on the football field. When LSU is ranked third-to-last in free speech on campus and plummets all the way to No. 172 on the US News college rankings, it’s an indication LSU needs to start focusing on being the best it can be and not the wokest.
Let’s not forget Woodward, who has certainly come off as a good little woke soldier since he came aboard as the AD. Woodward is an old-school Democrat politico. He used to be a political consultant in Baton Rouge years ago, and in that role he was a compatriot of James Carville’s. They’re still good friends.
And what did Carville say earlier this year? He said “Wokeness is a problem.”
Well, it’s definitely a problem for LSU. Hiring Gruden is a very good way to show that LSU’s wokeness isn’t as big a problem as people are starting to think. Hiring Gruden would make a statement that (1) someone’s free speech, particularly when that speech is PRIVATE, deserves to be protected and respected, (2) political agendas don’t get in the way of hiring the best people for important jobs on that campus, and (3) LSU is serious about winning.
Do we expect this to happen? No. We’d like to be pleasantly surprised, though. From what we can see, the injustice visited on Gruden is like manna from heaven for the Ole War Skule. LSU’s brass just needs to be smart enough to grab it.