Jon Gruden is expected to return to coaching, and rumors are rampant as to who might be on his staff.
Jon Gruden is reportedly making his long-anticipated return to coaching, and it will be where it all started, with the Oakland Raiders. If and when this happens, what will his coaching staff look like? Let’s roundup all the rumors and also look at some connections from the past to try to figure out who will be on the staff, if and when his hiring becomes official.
The most consistent rumor of them all is that former Raiders quarterback and league MVP Rich Gannon will be joining Gruden’s staff as the QB Coach.
As Jon Gruden called around to round up assistants, one name kept coming up as a QB coach: Rich Gannon. He has the #Raiders game today 🤔🤔🤔
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 31, 2017
Gannon enjoyed three consecutive years of 3,430 and 24 or more TDs under Gruden from 1998 to 2001 before winning the MVP the season Gruden left. His work ethic is well-documented, per Steve Corkan:
When Rich Gannon joined #Raiders, he was miffed about no one else working Saturdays. “Who the hell is he to bring that up?” Al Davis asked @JonKingdon “He’s your quarterback,” Kingdon said. “Ah, bullshit,” Davis said. “He’s the new guy.”
For context, Bill Romanowski has talked about how intense Gannon can be, so this hiring would be a stark contrast of Todd Downing and his relationship with Derek Carr. Gannon would be an actual coach and not a buddy, and this change certainly could get Carr back on track in 2018.
The second name rumored to be in the mix for QB Coach is one most in Raider Nation will not want to hear — current Rams QB Coach and former Raiders OC Greg Olson. Any bias or distaste for Olson as a play-caller aside, his track record as purely a positional coach is notable. Alongside Sean McVay, Olson has been a key figure in helping Jared Goff make a significant leap in his second NFL season. But even so, Gannon is the name folks will circle.
Bill Callahan was Gruden’s offensive coordinator for the entirety of his tenure in Oakland. He is currently the offensive line coach of the Washington Redskins, and he has been linked to returning to the Raiders in the same role he currently holds as well as the run game coordinator. Callahan, of course, was the losing coach of the Super Bowl and flamed out as a head coach, but he is well respected as an offensive line coach in league circles.
However, it might be awkward for Jon to steal the OL Coach away from his brother Jay, and there are other reports out there that Callahan won’t be the man for the job.
The second candidate for offensive line coach is Jeremiah Washburn, the current OL coach for the Bears. He has 15 years of experience at the NFL level, with Dolphins (2016), Lions (2009-15), Ravens (2003-08) and Panthers (2002). He and Gruden have never coached together, so perhaps this is a connection built thanks to Gruden’s time with ESPN. Washburn is considered the most likely candidate for the position.
One other name to throw out there is Aaron Kromer, current Rams OL coach. He was an assistant offensive line coach on Gruden’s 2001 staff before moving into the head position at this spot when Callahan took over. He joined Gruden in Tampa from 2005 to 2007, so he could join him for a third time on a reunion tour. But his name hasn’t been linked by any NFL insiders and is just a name I gathered from browsing Gruden’s past coaching staffs.
In regard to the potential offensive coordinator, the most common name being thrown around is current Jets OC John Morton, and the team would let him go if he chooses. Morton just completed his first season calling plays and did well with a depleted offense. The numbers weren’t flashy, but he showed some creativity and some aggressiveness, maximizing the minimal talent he had to work with. He was an offensive assistant on Gruden’s staff in 2001, so there is history here.
Marc Trestman hasn’t been linked by any insiders, but he was a Senior Assistant on Gruden’s staff in Oakland and could be a darkhorse option for offensive coordinator. However, he is currently a head coach in the CFL and his most recent stints as an OC in the NFL haven’t been all that successful.
The name most commonly linked to Gruden’s defensive coordinator is Paul Guenther, DC of the Cincinnati Bengals since 2014. The two have never coached together, so this seems like a relationship built via Chucky’s time in the booth.
The #Raiders are confident Jon Gruden will say yes eventually, though he is being careful about doing so before they comply with the Rooney Rule and he is still on the books to broadcast a game Saturday for ESPN. Gruden is already planning to call plays, hire DC Paul Guenther.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 1, 2018
Since Guenther took over the Bengals DC job in 2014, his defenses have ranked 23rd, 11th, 17th and 18th in total yards allowed. His 2015 run defense ranked 7th and his 2017 pass defense ranked 8th — those were the two times in four seasons they’ve ranked in the top ten in either category. In sacks, since 2014, Cincinnati has ranked 32nd, 10th, 19th and 11th. In total takeaways, they’ve ranked 10th, 6th, 12th and 30th.
Bradley hasn’t been linked to the job by insiders, but it’s worth noting that he was Gruden’s LB Coach in Tampa for three seasons from 2006 to 2008.
Gus was an awful head coach, but since 2009, his defenses have made regular appearances in important statistical categories such as total yards, sacks and takeaways. There are some inconsistencies to note, but he’s a well-respected defensive coordinator. Plus, he’s the current DC for the Chargers, so Gruden would be stealing from a division rival.
Marinelli was Gruden’s assistant head coach and defensive line coach in Tampa from 2002 to 2005.
Since 2014, the Cowboys have ranked 2nd, 32nd, 19th and 16th in takeaways. In yards allowed, they’ve ranked 19th, 17th, 14th and 8th. In sacks, they have ranked 28th, 25th, 14th and 18th.
Mostly middle-of-the-pack numbers, and if hired, he’d be the worst of three names mentioned here but not a bad hire by any means. He’s rumored to be on the way out in Dallas, so perhaps he could return to his old role and be Gruden’s DL Coach.
Special Teams Coordinator
Bisaccia was the ST Coordinator for Gruden’s entire duration in Tampa, 2002 to 2008. He has held that same role in Dallas since 2013 and has been an assistant head coach in several of his stops, including in his final season with Gruden.
Ranking special teams units is no exact science, but Football Outsiders does have advanced metrics on it. From 2012 through 2017, every one of Bisaccia’s ST groups has ranked in or near the top ten. He’s the only name being linked to the position and seems like a shoe-in to be hired.
Sounds like Cowboys special team coach Rich Bisaccia might be heading to join his old boss Jon Gruden in Oakland as his special teams coach assuming Gruden takes job. Good assumption
— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) January 3, 2018
Here are a few other names to watch based on previous connections:
- Mike Waufle – DL Coach
- Fred Pagac – LB Coach
- Joe Barry – LB Coach
- Skip Peete – RB Coach
- Kirby Wilson – RB Coach
The tricky part when it comes to trying to piece together coaching staffs based on past connections is that the new offensive and defensive coordinators will surely have a lot of say in regard to their positional coaches. So if Morton and Guenther in those roles, a handful of Jets and Bengals positional coaches could follow. Also, there could be several new names to consider once teams are eliminated in the Wild Card round. And maybe Gruden could put in a call to Charles Woodson to see if he could come in and coach the DBs.
All in all, it seems like Gruden has a pretty good staff coming together. Experienced, quality coordinators will make a world of difference for the Raiders. To wrap this up, these seem like the most sure things based on reports:
- QB Coach – Gannon
- OL Coach – Washburn
- Offensive Coordinator – Morton
- Defensive Coordinator – Guenther
- ST Coordinator – Bisaccia