The Oakland Raiders paid a hefty sum for Jon Gruden, especially considering he’d been out of the game and in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth for nine years.
His 10-year $100 million deal makes him the NFL’s second highest paid coach behind, of course, Bill Belichick. But Gruden says the big paycheck won’t carry with it any additional pressure to succeed because if he doesn’t, he’ll simply refuse the money.
“If I can’t get it done, I’m not going to take their money,” the 54-year-old Gruden told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “Who guarantees I’m going to live 10 years? So I don’t think about that…The only thing that matters is, I’ve got more important things to worry about than eight years of my contract.”
In fact, Gruden says, the expectations that have been placed on him could be a bit unreasonable. For instance, the potential holdout of pass-rusher Khalil Mack, the focal point of the Raider defense, is widely believed to be Gruden’s responsibility when it’s something that general manager Reggie McKenzie would handle.
“There’s a perception out there that I’m doing everything,” he said. “I’m talking to Derek Carr and we’re trying to get ready for practice. I’m trying to pick up (defensive coordinator) Paul Guenther’s crazy blitzes … I understand the bullseye thing, but I can only control what I can.”
In the end, though, Gruden realizes his story has the perfect sort of arc for one of those dramatic ESPN sports documentaries: Head coach comes out of nowhere to eventually become the youngest to win a Super Bowl, burns out for a decade, then returns to coaching and does whatever. Pretty much any ending, success or failure, would work there. While it might make for good viewing, it’s not even in the back of Gruden’s mind.
“Expectations, bullseye, whatever,” Gruden said. “When you start to think about the magnitude of all that, it’s like the open for Monday Night Football. It’s great to talk about. But that’s a story for (sideline reporter) Lisa Salters to do.”