Love or Hate Him, Gruden Is Face of Football

Love or Hate Him, Gruden Is Face of Football

Jon Gruden has one of the most recognizable faces in professional football, partly because he hasn’t worn a helmet since 1985, when he began his transformation from feckless college quarterback to triumphant professional coach. In 1998, he was named the head coach of the Oakland Raiders; in 2003, at thirty-nine, he won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sports Illustrated chronicled his “spectacular” rise, and People anointed him one of the “beautiful people,” although his appearance was more impish than debonair—he was known as Chucky, because of his devilish squint, which made him resemble the psychotic doll from the horror movie “Child’s Play.”

In 2009, after a particularly disappointing season, the Buccaneers fired him, but, instead of moving on, he stayed put, and prospered. Gruden, who is now forty-eight, remained in Tampa, with his wife and three sons. He rented an office in a local strip mall, where he began presiding over irregular gatherings of a group that he calls the Fired Football Coaches Association. (He keeps boxes of F.F.C.A. visors and T-shirts in the bathroom, stacked in the shower stall.) Gruden’s office contains one of the country’s greatest collections of football videotapes, sorted according to a complicated taxonomy of his own devising. He says, “You want to talk about two-minute offense? Ball security? Nickel jam? Red-zone touchdown passes? Quarterback fundamentals? Read options? Three-down nickel blitzes? Checkdowns? Wildcats? I got it all down here.”

 

 

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