If you ask former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil what he thinks about Jon Gruden’s return to the sidelines, he believes the Raiders coach will be better than ever.
Very few people can relate to Jon Gruden these days. Dick Vermeil is one such person. And in his opinion, there is absolutely no downside to Gruden’s long-anticipated return to the sidelines of the National Football League.
Over the last few weeks, rumors turned to announcements as the Oakland Raiders finally grabbed their man (again) with the hiring of Gruden to the tune of $10 million per year over a mammoth 10-year commitment. It was the cost to get their man, and analysts immediately began to ask the obvious questions about the hire—about Gruden’s coaching acumen, about the money spent, etc.
The primary questions about Gruden concern his time away from the game—not that he’s been absent from the NFL at all, but he’s at least been away from the sidelines during this time. Nearly a decade has passed since Gruden was an NFL head coach and observing the game from the relative cushion of the broadcasting booth isn’t the same. Or is it?
Adam Schefter recently invited former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil to be a guest on his podcast, and Vermeil is one of the few persons who can completely relate to Gruden. From 1976 to 1982, Vermeil coached the Philadelphia Eagles to a 54-47 record over the course of seven seasons, one of which included a Super Bowl appearance. Then he vanished into the broadcasting ranks for the next decade and a half.
It wasn’t until 1997, with the St. Louis Rams, that Vermeil decided to finally give in to the consistent coaching offers that came his way. Fans of the Chiefs likely remember the rest of the story, but in case you don’t, Vermeil won a Super Bowl with the Rams just three years later and then immediately took over the Chiefs for a five-year run in which he put together a 44-36 record.
Vermeil’s experience is one reason why Schefter brought him on his podcast, to ask him about parallels to Gruden and what the Raiders coach might be thinking. It’s clear that Vermeil believes Gruden will be just fine despite any absence from the game in an official capacity.
"I’ll say this: he’ll come back even better than he left. He’ll see more, because he’s had a lot of free time to evaluate more, and I don’t know anybody that’s studied the game any more than Jon has since he left. I think he’ll be a better head football coach. I think he’ll see the big picture better. I think he’ll recognize where his weaknesses and strengths were when he was doing it. He’ll recognize what he has to do to surround himself with people that can help him be as good as he has the ability to be. I think he’ll be a better leader. I don’t think there are any negatives in Jon going back."
The Raiders certainly think so, and Vermeil’s entire conversation is worth hearing to find out more about his relationship with Gruden and Vermeil’s own lessons learned during his broadcasting hiatus. If nothing else, it will be interesting to watch Gruden’s return to the AFC West—even as Chiefs Kingdom is actively rooting against Vermeil’s prediction.