One of the biggest storylines of New Orleans Saints training camp so far has been the presence of ostracized head coach Jon Gruden.
Gruden, who was forced to resign from his position with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021 after a scandalous email leak revealed he made misogynistic and homophobic comments during his time as an analyst, has been pictured at Saints practices wearing a t-shirt and a visor with the team’s logo. But the question is why is he there?
Jon Gruden visiting with Saints QB Derek Carr at training camp practice on Friday. Gruden and Carr teamed with the Raiders for three-plus seasons from 2018-2021. Gruden is visiting the Saints as a non-paid observer this weekend. pic.twitter.com/aSzCzEHh7u
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) August 4, 2023
According to second-year Saints head coach Dennis Allen – also a former Raiders coach – Gruden has simply been “observing” and fans shouldn’t “read too much into” his presence on the sidelines.
“There’s not a role we have for him. He loves football. He loves being around it. And so, he comes out here, he watches practices a little bit, and if there’s things we can visit with him about that he can provide some insight for us,” Allen said, per Sports Illustrated. “But I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s out here observing, much like we had some other guys out here observing. (Former Saints defensive back and college coach) Brett Maxie was out here today observing practice, so yeah.”
Although Allen never alluded to hiring Gruden to a full-time position, the idea has crossed many a minds considering new quarterback Derek Carr played under him from 2018-2021.
During that time span, Carr had his best statistical seasons since joining the league in 2014 – totaling 12,206 passing yards and 67 touchdowns with 27 interceptions in three full seasons under Gruden’s guidance. He also exceeded a 100.0 passer rating for the only times in his career (2019 and 2020) when playing for Gruden.
“I played my best football for him” Carr expressed after Thursday’s practice. “I spent a lot of time with him, and so if anybody knows me, knows things about me that I don’t know, he would know it.”
It’s no secret that Gruden is a good coach. Mediocre record aside (117-112 in 15 seasons as an NFL head coach), Gruden is not only a Super Bowl champion but a true quarterback whisperer. Even when he was out of coaching, he was still hosting a QB Camp television segment, in which he mentored up-and-coming quarterback classes.
With Dennis Allen being a defensive-oriented guy – serving as the team’s defensive coordinator for six years before being promoted to head coach – it probably wouldn’t hurt to add another offensive mind to your staff. On top of that, he would be working with Carr, who he knows well and has helped develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Of course, there is the baggage that comes along with Gruden to consider, though. Gruden is currently suing the NFL and Roger Goodell, accusing the commissioner of leaking his emails to sully his reputation and expel him from professional football. That being said, the love lost is between Gruden and Goodell – not Gruden and the New Orleans Saints.
And actually, Gruden and the Saints are more alike than people realize. Both parties consider themselves mistreated by the league. Gruden’s distaste is obvious while a lot of people in New Orleans still feel as if they were too harshly punished over the bounty scandal that allegedly took place from 2009-2012.
Overall, it would be a victory for the Saints to hire Gruden to a cheap contract – there’s no way he’d ask for much as he’s currently trying to climb back into the coaching picture – as the pros immensely outweigh the cons.