“Retreads,” they call ‘em. An NFL head coach’s level of success in their first go at it could provide them another opportunity at some point down the road.
Jeff Fisher’s Super Bowl run with the Tennessee Titans in 1999 afforded him the opportunity to give it another shot with the St. Louis Rams in 2012.
And Jon Gruden’s seven-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may provide him the same opportunity (in Los Angeles) in 2017, as the Rams wrap up their disappointing L.A. homecoming.
You’ve probably heard the adage “defense wins championships.” Some, who don’t think Trent Dilfer had to do too much in 2000 for the Ravens to hoist the Lombardi, buy that. Others believe that a high-powered offense can overcome any deficit. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but to each their own.
For the Rams, however, the parts have been in place - or at least close to being in place - on the defensive side of the ball for a few years now. The offense, however, sputters annually despite the amount of early round picks the Rams have invested on that unit over the past five seasons.
So one has to wonder, in a league where offensive juggernauts thrive, what is it, exactly, that Jon Gruden is going to do to right the ship for the Rams offensively?
Here’s a snapshot of how the Gruden-lead Bucs finished each season, statistically, from a points-per-game and yards-per-game standpoint from 2002 (when he took over) to 2008 (when he hung ‘em up).
Are fans clamoring for Gruden to take over in Los Angeles solely because of the Super Bowl Championship in his first year in Tampa? Is it because he can overcome subpar numbers on offense, yet manage to get the team above .500, or to a first round exit in the playoffs?
Does it matter to anyone that Gruden inherited a Bucs’ team that Tony Dungy had taken to the postseason four out of the five years prior?
Because the notion the Rams can stand pat on defense, maybe fine tune a few things, and that Gruden will suddenly transform an abysmal offense into a well-oiled machine, is somewhat unfounded.
And let’s not forget that there is more than enough work to do on defense. The Rams lost a lot of key pieces last offseason, and while those players are thriving elsewhere, the Rams struggled, mightily at times, due to health, depth, and performance issues. Simply put, they’re just not as strong a unit as they were in 2015.
Jon Gruden wouldn’t be walking into a 2002-type situation, as he did with the Bucs. Not only would he inherit the league’s worst offense, but he’s taking over a defensive unit that now looks to have more questions than answers.
The task at hand appears daunting for whoever the Rams hire. Signing Gruden would be the splashy, popular thing to do...but it may not be the right thing; especially if you’re looking for a coach who’s going to get the most out of talented young players like Tavon Austin, Todd Gurley, and Jared Goff.
Jeff Fisher couldn’t do it. What leads you to believe Jon Gruden can?