Head Coach Jon Gruden REturns to the
Silver and Black
By Eddie Paskal
No one would have faulted him for calling it a day.
Jon Gruden had just flown cross country on a charter jet from
Florida, 48 hours after he wrapped up his final assignment
for ESPN, and the usually-tepid Northern California weather
was anything but, as winds and rains welcomed Gruden and
family as they disembarked their flight.
But, instead of heading off to get some rest, the newest
head coach of the Oakland Raiders did what he loves to
do; he went to work.
After a short drive from the airport, Gruden and his family arrived at the
team’s Alameda, Calif., practice facility, and two decades after he roamed
those very halls for the first time as the head man for the Raiders, he did it
With few people in the facility aside the custodial staff, Gruden walked
through the building, and while many things have changed in the 20 years
since he became the youngest head coach in the league, others have not.
“I felt like I was 34 years old again,” said Gruden. “I walked in, I had
nerves. I was excited. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and that’s the thrills that
brought me back to coaching. I need those feelings inside to survive, man.
During his re-acclimation with the facility, Gruden saw familiar faces, and
familiar offices, places that hold a special place in heart. It was a unique
experience for the Raiders head coach, one that reminded him of a 1980s cult
classic, one starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.
“It was like that movie Back to the Future,” Gruden explained. “You walk
in, and I see Al Davis’ office; I had meetings with him at 11 o’clock at night.
I walk down the hall and I see Fred Biletnikoff’s office, my wide receivers
coach. It’s chilling. It was really chilling, cool. Really cool, man, to be back in
the building where it all started, and it’s emotional. No doubt.”
And while the walk back to 1998 was an emotional one for Gruden, there
was one stop in particular that held special significance, the office of lateowner
AL Davis, a man who took a shot on the young upstart, eventually giving
him his first head coaching job in the NFL.
“I interviewed in that room to be a head coach; I didn’t get the job, then I
interviewed again the next year and I got the job,” Gruden said. “I wanted to
be with the Raiders because of him. I wanted to be judged by a man who was
2018 Raiders Gameday 89