The Las Vegas Raiders got off to a fast start this season, taking down the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first two weeks of the season and climbing out to a 3-0 record. They have since dropped two straight, but the hammer didn’t fall until yesterday.
That is when a continued leak of e-mails from now-former head coach Jon Gruden surfaced that ultimately prompted his resignation, which was presumably not much of a choice, but more of an ultimatum from Raiders owner Mike Davis.
During his tenure as a commentator for ESPN, over a period of several years, e-mails show that Gruden regularly engaged in language deemed offensive to minorities, homosexuals, and women, with the most pointed criticism having been reserved for his comparing the lips of the NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith, who is black, to Michelin tires. He also denigrated NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with homophobic language.
A former Super Bowl-winning head coach and widely respected for his deep love and knowledge of the game, Gruden has been an important figure in the game for the past few decades, and helped many young coaches get their start, including the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, who was asked to comment on the recent developments.
“I’m just saddened by it”, he said in short remarks earlier today. “I’m saddened for the Raiders organization. I’m saddened by the people who were offended by it. I’m saddened for Coach Gruden. It’s a sad commentary, and that’s really the only opinion that I care to share at this juncture”.
Tomlin was actually first hired by Tony Dungy in 2001 in his final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he coached the defensive backs under Gruden for four seasons before earning a defensive coordinator position with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, which led to his job with the Steelers a year later. They won a Super Bowl together in 2002.
Gruden spent a decade out of coaching before accepting the Raiders’ head coaching position, a role he served from 1998 through 2001 before being acquired by the Buccaneers, on a decade-long contract in 2018.
Now out, Rich Bisacchia will serve as Las Vegas’ interim head coach as the Raiders look to remain competitive in the AFC West. They have fallen into a tie for second place with the Denver Broncos, who have also dropped two straight, now a game back behind the 4-1 Los Angeles Chargers. The Kansas City Chiefs are somehow 2-3.
The Steelers already have a loss to the Raiders this season, so Las Vegas’ current turmoil can only benefit them when it comes to potential Wildcard standings down the road. Pittsburgh is two games out of first place in the AFC North thanks to another comeback from the Ravens, who have now won four straight since dropping the opener to the Raiders.