Durkin: Raiders Knew Gruden As "MNF Guy"

As Oakland's players are discovering, Jon Gruden is more fiery on the sidelines than he was in the booth

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
June 14, 2018 - 9:36 am

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After a 10-year absence from coaching, Jon Gruden is back on the sidelines. He hasn’t coached a single game yet, but it’s safe to say his second tenure in Oakland will be much different than the first.

In fact, it already has been.

“I think it’s all the new rules of the CBA,” The Athletic San Francisco senior editor Jimmy Durkin said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He can’t stand this new CBA that limits all this contact and how much time you can spend with these guys in the offseason. He spent the whole time from the time he was hired until they finally (opened) the gates, he was complaining, ‘I can’t work with my guys.’ That’s the part that bugs him the most, that they’re much more limited on the time they get with these players.

“But now that he’s back on the field, he’s the fiery Jon Gruden,” Durkin continued. “He’s cracking jokes when he’s talking to us. Ever since he got ripped for that ‘We’re taking it back to 1998’ comment, he finds a way to mention 1998 in almost every press conference. He showed up the other day wearing a retro Raiders hat. So he’s having fun, and he’s making it fun to cover the team.”

He’s also making it fun for the players, many of whom knew him solely as an eccentric broadcaster.

“I think a lot of these guys know him as a TV guy,” Durkin said. “All these guys kind of came up with this guy as the Monday Night Football guy. They had to get used to his intensity. He’s an intense coach. He didn’t shy away from that. But they’ve all enjoyed it.”

The Raiders went 12-4 in 2016 but 6-10 in 2017. Gruden hopes to return the Raiders to playoff form, but he must fix the team’s suspect chemistry.

“It’s no secret that the Raiders last year had a lot going on internally and weren’t the most cohesive unit,” Durkin said. “And I think this year they’ve kind of been able to start bonding a little bit more. That can all change if they go out and lose the first three games, but at least for right now they’re in a good position. I think they’re enjoying being coached by this guy that is probably a lot like some of their high school coaches – tough hard-nosed guys that we’ve kind of gotten away from.”

The Raiders open the season against the Rams on Monday Night Football on Sept. 10. They follow that with road games at Denver and Miami before returning home for a Week 4 game against the Browns.