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Jon Gruden's downfall leaves trace of breadcrumbs to Ashburn


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It’s not a stretch to imagine that Daniel Snyder’s name will not be praised in any Gruden’s household.

Jay Gruden suffered through five often miserable seasons coaching for Snyder in Washington before he was mercifully relieved of his duties late in the 2019 season. Now, his big brother Jon also is out of a job, and Snyder’s toxic tentacles played at least a small role in that outcome as well.

Make no mistake, Jon Gruden bears the blame for a series of racist, homophobic and generally idiotic emails he authored in the past decade regarding NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the possibly soon-to-be-former attorney for the league’s players association.

Those correspondences came while Gruden was working for ESPN as its Monday Night Football color commentator, so he wasn’t officially employed by the league at the time. But that doesn’t excuse them. And as we have learned, past indiscretions have a way of resurfacing, years and even decades later.

The interesting part is that the emails surfaced mainly because of the NFL’s investigation into decades of misogyny and hostile treatment of female employees within Snyder’s Washington team headquarters. According to the New York Times, much of the communication was addressed to former team president Bruce Allen, with whom he had worked in Oakland and Tampa Bay.

You may remember that it was Allen’s gross mismanagement of the franchise his father once coached to its first Super Bowl appearance that helped spark an investigation that essentially resulted in a timeout for Snyder. For Gruden, though, it opened a Pandora’s box of career suicide.

Gruden’s resignation on Monday night stunned the sports world and dearly cost bookies who were giving odds that Jacksonville’s Urban Meyer would be the first NFL coach to lose his job this fall.

Two weeks ago, Gruden’s Las Vegas Raiders were 3-0, and his rebuilding effort of the team he once coached in Oakland seemed to be on schedule. Now, the Raiders have lost two straight games — and lost their most famous coach since John Madden retired.

You’ve likely heard the details of Gruden’s thoughts, which he clearly should have kept to himself. He insulted Smith, who is reportedly unlikely to be retained as the players’ union counsel. He impugned Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, and Eric Reid, who joined Colin Kaepernick in protesting racial disparity by kneeling during the national anthem.

The likely final straw, though, was Gruden’s criticism of Goodell, whose handling of issues such as concussions and racial awareness have left much to be desired but who is extremely popular with the owners he serves. Even Mark Davis, Al’s son and the team’s current owner, declined to defend his coach, declaring that Gruden’s emails regarding Smith were “disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for.”

Gruden won consecutive AFC West titles (2000 and 2001) in his first tenure with the Raiders, then coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their only non-Brady Super Bowl title. His $100 million return to the Raiders hasn’t been nearly as successful, with a 19-29 record entering this season.

Gruden, like many others who try to recreate magic, has learned that times change. And they leave behind those who don’t change with them.

Steve DeShazo reports for The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star.

Steve DeShazo reports for The (Fredericksburg) Free Lance-Star.


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