Gruden returns to the Raiders

Marino Dominguez, Columnist

History tends to repeat itself — sometimes in bad ways: world wars, economic collapse, extinction, famine. But for Oakland Raiders fans and its owner Mark Davis, history couldn’t repeat itself at a better time.

Former Oakland Raider and Tampa Bay Buccaneer head coach Jon Gruden will return to Oakland for the first time since 2001, when he was traded by previous owner Al Davis, Davis’s father.

Davis had said years before that he had been pursuing Gruden, trying to lure him out of his color analyst job on Monday Night Football.

“Over the last six years, I’ve really gotten to know Jon and his family, and that I think was the important part of it — the family believing in the Raiders and believing in me,” Davis said to “The Mercury News.”

With this much anticipation for the return of “Chucky” — Gruden’s nickname — Davis didn’t leave any room for doubt in whom he had faith. Davis and Gruden came to an agreement on a $100 million, 10 year contract — the most lucrative contract in NFL history. Gruden insisted it wasn’t about the money, but let’s face it, $100 million is $100 million.

The welcome ceremony for Gruden in Oakland, California, looked more like someone had just won the SuperBowl, with crowds of reporters and Hall of Famers. Some of the greatest players and coaches in Raiders history were in attendance: Rich Gannon, Jim Plunkett, Jim Otto, Howie Long, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Tom Flores, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice … the list goes on and on. All to see the returning coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Jon Gruden was hired by then-owner Al Davis and then-CEO Amy Trask in 1998 to coach a team with potential but not the right coaching. It wasn’t a secret that not few coaches could handle the intense pressure Al Davis brought to the game, and many coaches would turn down job opportunities because of Al Davis.

Gruden went 38-26 with the Raiders in a four-year span, going to the playoffs his last two years. His last game as the head coach of the Raiders was one of the most controversial games in history, the blizzardy bout dubbed “The Tuck Rule Game.”

In that infamous game, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dropped back for a pass with little time on the clock. The Raiders needed to get a stop so they could run the clock out and end the game. As Brady scanned the field, BAM! Charles Woodson catapulted into Brady, the ball fell out of his hand, the Raiders recovered. Raiders fans across the nation celebrated.

But then the referees decided to take another look. After further review, Brady’s hand was moving forward when the ball came loose, and therefore it was ruled an incomplete pass. The Patriots went on to tie the game and win in overtime, ending the Raiders chances of going to the Superbowl. Days later, Davis called Gruden in the middle of the night and let him know he had been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

So, let’s just say Jon Gruden has some unfinished business in Oakland. As Mark Davis said, “This is a big effing deal.”