Reports of Jon Gruden's impending arrival as the next head coach of the St. Louis Rams might be a little premature, not that such a thing would stop the Twitter world from going 140 characters of crazy. Many have speculated about Gruden's return to coaching, but few have any answers. Gruden's current bosses in Bristol weighed in today.
Gruden is currently saying positive things about each and every coach, player and team as part of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast crew. The sports network released a statement today saying that Gruden remains committed to MNF, where he just signed a new four-year contract. ESPN did not say anything about Gruden becoming a head coach again, and Gruden has said nothing about the subject himself.
The Gruden to St. Louis talk is, for now, strictly speculative. Treat it as such. Acee's a credible reporter, you can be sure he's hearing that talk via informed sources. However, it's by no means definitive, and as I said earlier, don't rule out the possibility of agents or other using rumors to generate interest and bidding wars.
Informed speculation or not, this will not be the last of it. Enough people have been asking about it, so we'll take a quick look at Gruden's body of work and how that might translate to the Rams in 2012. (We'll be doing the same with Jeff Fisher and A.J. Smith, the rumored GM candidate, this week as well).
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All you ever wanted to know about Jon Gruden and what his hiring might mean for the Rams, after the jump.
Gruden runs West Coast style offense, something he picked up from his mentor Mike Holmgren. It was Mike Holmgren who took Gruden under his wing in the NFL, hiring him in San Francisco and again in Green Bay, where Gruden worked from 1992-1994, including two years as a receivers coach. He also worked with Fritz Shurmur, uncle of one Pat Shurmur, and while Gruden and Pat Shurmur's paths never crossed on the coaching tree, they can both be considered part of the Holmgren family tree.
Gruden's offense would look familiar to Rams fans, who saw something very similar under Shurmur. That could work to Bradford's advantage, given his familiarity with the system. His work with wide receivers might not be a bad thing for the Rams either, though you can figure on a who new slate of coaching joining the fold. Upgrades at receiver and developing youngsters like Lance Kendricks and Greg Salas, both of whom could be fits in a WCO, will be essential to the Rams hopes next year and beyond.
For some reason Gruden gets billed as a quarterbacks master, or something hyperbolic like that. His work with Rich Gannon is the most notable. Gruden pulled him out of the backup job in Kansas City, and turned him into a star in Oakland. Gannon made the Pro Bowl in all three of Gruden's final years there. If you're worried about the short passing game with Gruden, don't. Gannon had an adjusted yards gained per attempt of 7.2 yards or more under Gruden. Bradford had a 5.4 AY/A last year and a 5.6 this year. The difference is, of course, the receivers. Gannon has Tim Brown and Jerry Rice in Oakland. Hopefully Bradford will have some actual talent to work with next year.
In Tampa Bay, Gruden won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson, who was in his second year with the team when Gruden took over in 2002. Johnson went back to obscurity because of injuries after two seasons under Gruden, who then managed to make Chris Simms and Brian Griese serviceable starters. Griese completed 69 percent of his passes in 10 starts in 2004 with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If he can get gains like that out of bits and pieces guys, Bradford's future should be alright.
The biggest criticism leveled against Gruden is that he won the Super Bowl with a team Tony Dungy built. That's partly true. He made some key free agent moves for that 2002 Super Bowl run, additions like RB Michael Pittman and WR Keenan McCardell. Dungy gets a lot of the credit for the defense, though, and Gruden kept the defensive coaching staff in place, which included Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris.
One thing to remember in evaluating his time in Tampa Bay, was the continued management of the Glazer family. The Buccaneers were hurt by their decision to trade two first-round picks, in 2002 and 2003, along with two second-round picks in 2002 and 2004 and $8 million in cash to Oakland in order to snag Gruden. It's hard to keep a team stocked with talent without its top picks in the draft.
Having worked for the Glazers, Gruden at least knows dysfunction. Hopefully, Kroenke will get his house at Rams Park in order before the next round of hiring.
Gruden also knows Rams Executive Vice President of Football Operations and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff. The two worked together in Tampa Bay from 2005 through 2008.
As far as the rumors about Gruden tied to A.J. Smith, I'd say take a deep breath. The two might have the kind of relationship to work together, but there's absolutely nothing that makes them a package deal. I think with a coach like Gruden, that is an established guy with a track record like his, the relationship with the GM and/or team president is crucial. Guys like that aren't going to take a job and not have considerable say in matters.
Later this week, we'll have a similar look at Jeff Fisher and A.J. Smith, since both have been rumored in connection with the Rams. Let us know what else you'd like to see.