When first prompted with the question, “Does Jon Gruden deserve to be inducted into the pro football hall of fame in 2014?” I was mildly dumbfounded.
Almost immediately, my mind shouted, “No!”
But then I thought about it for a bit longer and realized it was a somewhat justifiable claim. Let’s take a look at the facts.
Winning Super Bowl XXXVII against his former team, the Oakland Raiders, in his first season as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden joined an elite group of NFL head coaches who have won a Super Bowl, a group that includes John Madden.
Sometimes, the total number of wins or championships is not completely indicative of a coach’s worth and legacy. For example, the legendary Vince Lombardi only won two Super Bowls, but everyone knows his teams were NFL champions four times before the Super Bowl even existed.
Despite a lack of trophies, Gruden’s leadership and football knowledge made the teams he was in charge of much better. Before coming to the Bucs in 2002, the team had made the playoffs the last four out of five seasons. As such, the task of leading them to the playoffs and eventually to the Super Bowl in 2002 does not seem like as much of an accomplishment for Gruden.
Nevertheless, one year before joining the Raiders, Oakland finished with a 4-12 record. In Gruden’s four seasons with them, the Raiders never finished below .500 and made the playoffs twice.
Gruden’s leadership abilities seem a bit muddied by these two examples. On one hand, he led the already-strong Bucs to a Super Bowl win in his first season in Tampa Bay. On the other hand, the Bucs finished under .500 in each of the next two seasons with Gruden still at the helm.
However, he truly seemed to turn the Raiders’ organization around and since he left for Tamp Bay, Oakland has only had one season above .500 – 2002, the season after he left.
Unfortunately, we cannot go to the history books for more information to see if Gruden was a team-builder and an elite head coach, because his four years with Oakland and his seven average seasons with Tampa Bay are the only years of his coaching career.
With one Super Bowl win and a win-loss record of 95-81, it would be nice to give Gruden credit on longevity. Alas, he simply does not have a lengthy nor decorated coaching career and thus, I cannot give him my support for the Hall of Fame. At only 49 years of age, I would like to see this good coach come back and lead another team, adding to his legacy.
However, I do not expect that to happen any time soon as Gruden signed a five-year contract as an analyst for Monday Night Football back in 2011.