I went on a bit of a rant this morning on Twitter about Jon Gruden. I was told by more than a few people that I needed to organize my thoughts in a post instead of a bunch of angry tweets. I disagree, but I also live to serve. Here you go.
Jon Gruden = Norv Turner
I know. You're all like "Whaaaaa?", but it's totally true. There's almost no difference in Gruden and Norv Turner. Consider the following.
Both Gruden and Turner were brought in to replace successful coaches that were thought to be unable to win "the big one". They were supposed to be the final kick in the pants to get the team over the top.
The San Diego Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season, and in Norv's first year (2007) his team went all the way to the AFC Championship Game with an injured starting QB, hall of fame RB, hall of fame TE and dominant pass-rusher. At least half of those injuries were garnered in a brutal first-round game against the Tennessee Titans. If San Diego had faced another opponent, they are probably healthier against the Patriots and probably score 4 TDs instead of 4 FGs. They also probably get more pressure on Tom Brady.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers let Tony Dungy walk after his contract expired. All Dungy had done was take the team to three consecutive playoff appearances, making it four in the last five years. Tampa then traded the farm to get Gruden and, in his first season, he lead the team to a Super Bowl victory. His QB, RB, best receiver and best pass rusher all stayed healthy. Brad Johnson, Michael Pittman, Keyshawn Johnson and Simeon Rice all played huge parts in the playoff run.
See the difference? The difference is health and luck and matchups. The result is Gruden has a Super Bowl ring and the acclaim of everyone while Norv is treated like dirt.
Wins are important. Norv's winning percentage in San Diego is quite good (.602), mostly because he's yet to finish a season below .500 in San Diego (an impressive feat). You can point at his winning percentages with the Raiders or Redskins if you want, but those were terrible situations for coaches to succeed. Also, if you're doubting Norv in 2012 for what he did in the 90s, you're assuming that coaches don't change or improve at their job.
Gruden is the opposite of Norv in that way. The longer his career went, the less he won games. The only time he consistently won games was with the Oakland Raiders, which makes him maybe the oddest statistical anomaly. The only way to possibly explain what happened there is that the right QB (Rich Gannon) met the right coach (Gruden) at the right time. Gruden left Oakland with a .594 winning percentage, but was barely above .500 (.509) during his 7 years with the Buccaneers.
In his final six seasons, Gruden's teams went 0-2 in the playoffs. In Norv's six season in San Diego, his teams have gone 3-3 in the playoffs. Why does everyone think Gruden would be an improvement?
Veterans vs. Rookies
You could make an argument that Norv Turner doesn't play his rookies enough. You could make a counterargument that A.J. Smith drafts more for potential than completed product, so Norv's doing the right thing. Either way, there's something that keeping the Chargers from being able to develop young talent. However, it's leaps and bounds better than what Gruden has done in his tenure.
Those Raider teams that Gruden was getting a good run with? They were mostly centered around Tyronne Wheatley, Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. I'm pretty sure all of those guys were 35 or older. I can't remember a single good "young" player from those Raider years except maybe Jerry Porter, and he was ruined just as soon as he cracked the starting lineup. During his time in Tampa, the "stars" on the team were Joey Galloway, Jeff Garcia, Brad Johnson, Michael Pittman and other guys that were on their 4th team and had never been very good. Our friends at Bucs Nation even chimed in on this one during the twitter rant.
Time away from coaching is usually a good way to become a bad coach. It may not affect someone like Bill Cowher, who is more of a motivator, but it would certain affect Gruden (who, like Norv, works as his own Offensive Coordinator). Preparing for Monday Night Football does not require 80+ hours of watching game film every week, which is what Gruden used to have to do just to maintain his stature as a mediocre coach. To imagine that he's gotten better by not watching film for the last four seasons is absurd.
Gruden worked some magic with the Raiders. He turned that into a job with Tampa where he did what Norv did in San Diego, just with more luck, in that first season. He then proceeded to destroy everything good about the Buccaneers organization and has spent the last four years as a television broadcaster.
I know everyone is clamoring for a new coach, and he's done a good job at making himself quite visible, but not all former coaches are better than Norv. Not even if they have Super Bowl rings. If you really want a coach that has a chance at being better than Turner, you should probably start by picking a coach that is nothing like him.