A couple weeks ago, Jon Gruden was finally paying off for the Las Vegas Raiders. His team was 3-0. That 10-year, $100 million contract didn’t seem so bad.
Nobody could have ever guessed that two weeks later, Gruden would be done as Raiders head coach because of emails spanning 10 years revealed ugly racist, anti-gay and misogynistic comments.
On Monday night, less than an hour after a New York Times report that Gruden had sent emails that contained disturbing comments, Gruden resigned.
In a statement, Gruden said:
“I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
In a statement of his own, Vegas owner Mark Davis said he accepted Gruden’s resignation.
Raiders assistant Rich Bisaccia will be the interim head coach, according to ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber.
The New York Times story came after last week’s revelation that Gruden had sent an email containing racist comments regarding NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith.
Jon Gruden’s emails leaked
Last week, as part of an investigation into the misogynistic culture of the Washington Football Team, an email Gruden sent to then-Washington team president Bruce Allen in 2011 was leaked. In it, Gruden said of NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith: “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin [sic] tires.”
Gruden said he wasn’t racist. But then on Monday, The New York Times reported that other emails Gruden sent, which were also unearthed as part of the WFT investigation, said Gruden used anti-gay slurs. He referred to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a “fa****t” and a “clueless anti football p****y.” Gruden said in an email that Goodell shouldn’t have pressured then-St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam. Sam was the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL in 2014.
The New York Times report also said Gruden, in emails, criticized the hiring of women as referees and also the acceptance of players protesting for racial justice during the national anthem. The Times said Gruden also exchanged photos of topless women with Allen, including one of WFT’s cheerleaders.
Gruden wasn’t an employee of the NFL in 2011. He was in a prominent position with one of the NFL’s broadcast partners, as the lead color analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” There was a flimsy argument that the NFL couldn’t punish Gruden because he wasn’t an employee when the email regarding Smith was sent, but then came the second report with even more horrible emails. Gruden wasn’t going to survive that.
Gruden’s return wasn’t successful
Gruden’s legacy, before the emails, was fairly uncomplicated. He was a dynamic young coach early in his career, first with the Oakland Raiders and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl. He went to ESPN and became perhaps the most famous announcer calling the NFL for a decade. He was featured on beer commercials. Finally Raiders owner Mark Davis convinced Gruden to come back and coach, with the enormous contract making it hard to say no.
Gruden had three unsuccessful seasons on the field in his return. His fourth season was going better. The Raiders were 3-0, but then came two losses. The second loss, to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, was overshadowed by the racist email Gruden sent regarding Smith.
The news of Gruden no longer being Raiders coach broke, coincidentally, during “Monday Night Football.” Color commentators Brian Griese and Louis Riddick reacted.
“It’s awful. It’s awful to hear that,” Griese said. “Clearly there was more than the one email exchange about DeMaurice Smith. With all those things coming out, I don’t see any way Mark Davis couldn’t have that conversation with Jon Gruden. You can’t come back from that, not in this day and age, nor should he.”
“As someone who played for him, it’s highly, highly disappointing to say the least. I’ll just leave it at that,” Riddick said. “That all of this is coming out about a guy who … I’m just shocked.”
The end for Gruden came fast, and in an unexpected way.