In Gus Bradley, Raiders Say Jon Gruden Hiring Another Friend As Paul Guenther Was – But Is That Affirmative Action For White Coaches?
When former San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley was announced as the former Oakland Raiders now Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Coordinator, the Las Vegas Raiders wrote this on the organization’s main website:
Gus Bradley and Coach Gruden go way back.
Since Coach Gruden rejoined the Raiders in 2018, he has hired many of his former assistants he’s come in contact with during his days in the NFC South. Gus Bradley is another case of Gruden going for what he knows. Bradley was hired by Jon Gruden in 2006 to be the defensive quality control coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was promoted to linebackers coach one season later.
Gruden “going for what he knows” is similar to what NFL Owners have told the media when giving reasons why blacks have not been hired for head coach and coordinator rolls to anywhere near the rate of their white counterparts.
In the case of Jon Gruden, this will be the second time he’s hired a “great friend” to be his defensive coordinator. The first time was with the man he fired in December: Paul Guenther.
Also, the Raiders have been slow to get enthusiastically on board with involvement in the NFL’s minority coaching fellowship program, with one person to date, under the Gruden regime, compared to multiple participants with other NFL teams.
With the Raiders and Mark Davis, The Rooney Rule, (the 2003-born NFL policy calling for at least one black candidate to be interviewed for an NFL head coaching position) has been treated cursorily, and in the case of Tee Martin, who was interviewed for Gruden’s job in 2018, with disrespect. In the case of the former USC Offensive Coordinator Legendary Tennessee quarterback and 1998 national champion, Mark Davis was recorded as saying he did not see how he could have fired Jack Del Rio if Gruden was not available, “I don’t see how I could have. To spend $20 million, and on top of that hire Tee Martin, no.” That comment is widely considered to be insulting of Tee Martin, who many see as the consummate professional. I will add that he’s also an offensive innovator, and his work at USC in 2017, with the offensive line splits used in the running game, deserve study.
The hiring of Gus Bradley has all of the look of how Gruden himself was brought in, when Mark Davis finally landed his man in 2018 (and after a six-year quest). The Las Vegas Raiders quickly let it be known they were going to interview Gus Bradley for the “DC” job, then after a few days time, offered up former Dallas Cowboys Coach Kris Richard as the “black interview”. And before you cough up the name Raheem Morris, the Raiders did not say that an interview was done him; he was put out there as a possible candidate by the media covering the Raiders. The Las Vegas Raiders made it clear they were focused on hiring another one of Gruden’s friends in Bradley.
There is a problem here. In The Undefeated, Susan D. Carle, who’s a professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law, said coaches and executives of color have a case given how poorly things have trended for a good stretch now. The data suggests something is occurring that’s not random. And what it says is the problem is race.
When the subject is raised, the nuevo-Raiders fans like to point to the past, when Al Davis was alive. We all know about that part of history, but to mention it in this context is, itself, racist. In other words, you can not use the Oakland and L.A. Raiders past as some type of moral bank and then say the racism debt was paid, so we can forget about it now.
That’s just wrong.
What’s also wrong is for Jon Gruden, a registered fundraiser and conservative donor for Republicans like Mitt Romney and George Allen, to continue a pattern of coaching hiring that looks like it has the stamp of the John Birch Society. It also should be noted that Gruden has golfed with President Trump and in 2006, according to Mike Tirico, who was part of the foursome, with Ron Jaworski. Trump even gave Gruden a set of clubs as Tirico tells the story.
So, when Gruden said “I got my interest in a certain candidate, but I’m not going to make this job about politics. I respect the tough decision that America has to make and whichever way America goes, I’ll figure out how to get on the same page. You bet, I’ll support whoever’s in office,” given his track record, and the golf clubs, Gruden most certainly supported Trump.
And he’s not the only Oakland, then Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach to support Trump while working for Mark Davis. Jack Del Rio did too, and said so on Twitter. The existence of a vast right wing conspiracy to get white coaches hired is alive and well with the Las Vegas Raiders. It extends to much of the NFL, and even is reflected in the media, where black voices or white voices who can see racist actions, that would counter it are few, but growing in number.
It’s for those reasons I can’t see the Las Vegas Raiders improving much beyond the combined record of 2018, 2019, and 2020. What the Raiders should have done is ask the players and the GM work to get a defensive coordinator for the team, then have Gruden work with that person. That’s how Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan wound up together; the late George Halas was approached by those who played for Ryan, and wanted him as Chicago Bears Head Coach. Halas hired Ditka, and the rest was Super Bowl and NFL History with that record-setting defense.
You can’t hire the best and the brightest when friends are hiring friends, all white, and subjecting blacks to common roles like running backs coach and defensive backfield coach, when those coaches have resumes longer than a number of NFL head coaching hires over the last three years. It’s clear that Jon Gruden has far more good white friends than black friends among coaches.
Look, I like Jon, so this is a wake up call. He’s got to grow with the times – and the times call for diversity. For every white coach Gruden hired who’s a friend, I will bet there’s someone black who Jon knows, and would be better. Too many black folks get a white person with a title as a friend, think that person’s going to help them, and then wind up disappointed. That’s got to stop. It’s clear that’s happening in the NFL.
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