The Haircut may be back in the NFL, but he never really went away, did he? Jon Gruden, who recently signed a comically large contract to once again coach the Oakland Raiders, spent much of his time between the end of his coaching days in Tampa Bay and his return to Oakland serving as a commentator, in addition to running other football-related programs.
In truth, there are probably few people in his business who digest as much football as he does, yet he seems almost surprised by how much has changed since he last coached, in spite of the fact that he has worked intimately with players and coaches while up in the broadcasting booth.
Between his last coaching stint and his current, the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed, and in it was new regulations about what sort of access coaches can have with their players, both during the offseason and in the season, the latter pertaining to practice duration and intensity.
During a recent interview, he was asked about whether or not it was ‘driving him crazy’ that it would still be a while before he could be on the field with his players. After all, we have not even gone through the Scouting Combine yet.
“I hate it, personally”, he said. “When I was out of coaching, I had players come and visit me to help them with getting their football fix. A lot of these guys want to work. A lot of these guys are dying to work. And a lot of these men have hired independent coaches to help them work”.
Then he went into how that ties back to the CBA. “I just want to start having relationships with these guys, learn what makes them tick. What motivates them. How they learn. The only way you can learn is by being with people but there’s some geniuses out there that have put together this formula and we’re going to certainly abide by the rules”.
Obviously, those geniuses were the owners, and hey short-changed both the coaches and the players in the deal. But this is the first time that Gruden has had to deal with it in his long coaching career because of the extended period of time that he was out of the coaching profession on a formal level.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have plenty of sympathizers, including many who post here—and who write here. This is definitely an issue that will have to be revisited during the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the owners will have to understand that concessions will be made in order to get their coaches more access to their players.
I think that all parties have come to realize, after several years of evidence, that the limitations on coaching have probably had an effect on the overall quality of product on the field, in terms of fundamental execution. When the CBA was originally signed, the argument was actually made that the on-field product during the lockout season of 2011 was not affected by the curtailed offseason, but fewer people will buy it now.