Archdeacon: Gruden loses respect and admiration gained at UD

Like the majority of the passes he threw when he was a little-used backup quarterback for the Dayton Flyers, Jon Gruden’s apology Monday missed the mark.

After it was reported he used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language in many emails to disparage and attack numerous people and issues — from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith to female referees, gay athletes, players who protest social injustice, other coaches, owners, journalists, then President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and attempts by Goodell to reduce brain injuries suffered by players — Gruden resigned Monday as the $100 million coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Whether he left on his own or was pushed out, it doesn’t matter.

Even though he was once the golden boy of the NFL — at 39 he was the youngest coach to win the Super Bowl when he led Tampa Bay to the crown in 2003 — there was no way he could survive this ever-growing scandal.

Gleaning social media and public responses from the past few days, you could see he’d lost credibility around the league and especially in his own locker room, where 36 of 53 players are black and the team also has defensive end Carl Nassib, the first active NFL player in league history to announce, quietly, he was gay and then go about his business.

The trove of hateful emails sent by Gruden from 2011 to 2018 when he was the star of ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast booth to Bruce Allen, the since-fired president of the Washington Football Team, were unearthed during a summertime review of workplace misconduct surrounding the Washington team. It related, among other things, to secret nude videos taken of the team’s cheerleaders.

Gruden reportedly received semi-nude photos of the cheerleaders from Allen and then sent the images onto a circle of his cronies. According to New York Times reporting, he also told Allen to tell a Tampa Bay executive to perform oral sex on him. He described people, including Goodell and Biden, in the crudest of female anatomy terms.

The Wall Street Journal published the first email last Friday in which Gruden used a racist trope and other hateful language to denigrate Smith, a University of Virginia law school grad who had served in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Then Monday, after the league sent a cache of more offensive emails to Raiders owner Mark Davis, the New York Times published some of them.

Over the weekend, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a diversity group that works with the NFL and includes former Dayton Roth and NFL player and executive Larry Lee as one of its leaders, pressed the Raiders and the NFL to take action.

Monday, as the controversy continued to grow, Gruden finally announced his resignation.

In his brief statement, he said: “I’m sorry … I never meant to hurt anyone.”

He thanked all “the players, coaches, staff and fans of Raider Nation.”

The problem with that is that he did hurt a lot of people, not only in the NFL, but back at his alma mater, the University of Dayton, where he has enjoyed iconic status for a couple of decades.

An icon at UD

At UD basketball games, students in the Red Scare section wave Fathead placards of him showing his trademark tousled hair and intense face.

He’s been featured in the UD Football media guides and in the UD alumni magazine.

Just nine days ago, UD athletics director Neil Sullivan flew to Los Angeles and was joined by a group of alumni to celebrate the Monday Night Football game that featured two head coaches who both played quarterback for the Flyers – Gruden and Brandon Staley, who is in his first season as the Los Angeles Chargers coach.

Against the backdrop, Gruden’s apology fell incomplete on the turf.

Except for a brief mea culpa regarding Smith a few days ago, he didn’t address the people or topics he smeared in his emails.

He also needs to apologize to UD, the school he has claimed taught him so much of what made him a good coach in the NFL.

The nasty, antiquated spew that filled so many of his emails is not what the school is about. It’s not what the Flyers football program is about. And it certainly doesn’t reflect the teaching of the two cornerstones of UD football over the past 40-plus years: Mike Kelly, the former coach and current assistant athletics director, and Rick Chamberlin, the current head coach who was an assistant during Gruden’s UD days in the mid-1980s.

In my book, Kelly and Chamberlin are two of the finest men not just in coaching, but life. They don’t stand for nonsense like this, and by all accounts they didn’t expect this from Gruden.

They would celebrate every time Gruden came around the program and could meet with their players.

I remember when Gruden – fresh off winning the Super Bowl and being named one of People magazine’s “50 Beautiful People” – returned to the campus in 2003 for a fundraiser with legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, also a former UD player and a four-time Super Bowl winner.

Noll said he’d looked forward to meeting Gruden for the first time.

“He’s a rock star,” Kelly said of Gruden that day.

Tuesday, he was a fallen star.

“It’s sad,” Chamberlin said quietly. “Jon has admitted it was wrong and what was said was wrong. It is.

“Something like that is not acceptable by our program or by our university. In something like this, you feel for the people. It doesn’t just affect the one person (it’s aimed at), it affects a lot of different people.”

Chamberlin said in times he’s been around Gruden, he’s never heard him talk like that, nor seen emails like those uncovered.

Tuesday evening, Chamberlin said he would address the issue with his team at practice: “It’s out there and we don’t want to back down from the issue. Our program stands up to what it needs to do. We’ll give our thoughts about it to the team and move on.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Dayton players and coach Rick Chamberlin smile after a victory against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Welcome Stadium. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Dayton players and coach Rick Chamberlin smile after a victory against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Welcome Stadium. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Combined ShapeCaption
Dayton players and coach Rick Chamberlin smile after a victory against Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Welcome Stadium. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Letting down so many

Gruden’s ties to UD go back over 50 years. His dad, Jim, was an assistant coach on John McVay’s staff from 1969 to 1972, and the family lived in Kettering,

He came to UD after a season at Muskingum and played sparingly for the Flyers. “Mop-up duty,” he once told me.

He completed 6 of 15 passes in his career without a touchdown toss. He did run for three scores. Mostly, he was a holder on extra point and field goal attempts.

He did win the Lt. Andy Zulli Award as a senior for his dedication and character.

When Kelly won his 200th game as a coach, Gruden sent him a box of expensive cigars.

When he visited in 2015 before calling a Monday Night Football game between the Bengals and Broncos in Cincinnati, Gruden gave away football equipment to area high school coaches at a charity event.

He stopped in to see the house at 1532 Brown Street where he lived as a student, had dinner at the Pine Club and then went to a UD game where students greeted him waving their Fathead signs and his nephew, Joey Gruden, was a player on the Flyers bench.

People looked up to him that night, and now he’s let a lot of them down.

Some will say the cancel culture got Jon Gruden, but as you wade through those ugly emails – and there are likely more to come – learn about the cheerleader photos and everything else, you realize he canceled himself.

When he visited campus in May 2003, he talked to me about the importance of his return: “You need to go back and respect where you came from. The place that helped make you.”

He praised Kelly and the other coaches who had mentored him here: “They taught me how to be a winner.”

But now he’s gone out a loser.

He lost his job. He still had $60 million left on his contract. And most of all, he lost a lot of people’s respect and admiration.

Chamberlin summed it up:

“It’s sad.”

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