Jon Gruden walked away on Monday night. There’s a good chance that, if he hadn’t, he would have been fired. There’s a better chance that this is exactly what the NFL wanted.
The obvious takeaway from Monday’s stunning leak of homophobic/transphobic/sexists emails following Friday’s stunning leak of one single racist email is that the NFL wanted Gruden out, and that the leaks were going to continue until he resigned or was fired.
The league wasn’t inclined to suspend Gruden. None of the emails released to date were sent when Gruden fell under the NFL’s jurisdiction. Even if he did (more on that below), there’s no specific provision of the Personal Conduct Policy that is directly violated by the contents of private communications.
Also, the league likely didn’t want to fight Gruden publicly over whether a suspension would have been appropriate. If Gruden had fought back, his lawyers would immediately have delved into the question of how, with more than 650,000 emails unearthed by the Washington Football Team investigation, only the emails Gruden sent to former Washington executive Bruce Allen have been released.
Then there’s the question of whether Gruden sent any inappropriate emails after he returned to the Raiders as head coach in early 2018. Allen remained with the Washington Football Team through the 2019 season. That’s two years of overlap. To date, the league has released no emails that Gruden sent to Allen in 2018 or 2019.
That could have been the next step, if Gruden hadn’t resigned tonight.
Then there’s this question — did Gruden ever make fun of Davis? It could be that those emails were being kept under wraps, with the not-so-subtle message to Davis being that, if Gruden stays, those emails will be leaked, too. And those emails, if they exist, surely would embarrass Davis.
If there are inappropriate emails sent by Gruden during his time as the Raiders coach, that would have made it easier to fire him for cause. With Gruden out and the incentive to keep leaking emails extinguished, we’ll likely never know.
Indeed, Gruden should demand that, in exchange for giving the league what it wants, the rest of the emails he sent will be treated like the rest of the 650,000 emails from the Washington investigation.