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Jay Gruden Makes His Own Name

Posted by Gabe Hiatt on January 8, 2014 – 4:30 pm


He’s not the most famous man in the NFL to bear his surname, but his full name rests among greats of the game’s second cousin.

It’s flanked by Hunkie Cooper, George LaFrance, Sherdrick Bonner and Sylvester Bembery. Kurt Warner, too.

Arena Football League heroes have better names than any Ivy League lacrosse roster. Jay Gruden ranks No. 4 among them.

The Redskins confirmed Wednesday the team interviewed Gruden for the head coaching vacancy in Washington. Gruden has coached with the Bengals and the Buccaneers, but he won more championships in Tampa than  his older brother Jon Gruden would.



Jay Gruden was part of the 1999 class inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame (along with Durwood “Rock” Roquemore of course). As a quarterback, he won four championships for the Tampa Bay Storm (1991, ’93, ’95-96). He won league MVP in 1992 and ArenaBowl MVP in 1993. He’s also one of five coaches to win at least two ArenaBowls.

Gruden won ArenaBowl V as a rookie, tossing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Thomas with 39 second left. He threw for three touchdowns in ArenaBowl VII. In ArenaBowl IX he ran for a score and threw four more. He outdueled Warner in ArenaBowl X in front of 11,411 peopel in Des Moines, Iowa.

Unlike Warner, Gruden didn’t spin his AFL success into an NFL playing career. In 1997 he decided to stop playing and took a job as offensive coordinator of the Nashville Kats. A year later he took the head coach job of the Orlando Predators, where he went 93-61 and won ArenaBowl XII and XIV.

Gruden came back to playing twice in his coaching career.

The first time was at Louisville, where he took a graduate assistant job after playing quarterback for four years. He left the Cardinals to play in the World League of American Football, suiting up for the Barcelona Dragons and the Sacramento Surge.

Imagine directing a team from the sidelines and deciding to do it yourself. Gruden took a two-year hiatus from coaching the Predators to lead them at quarterback. He threw for 117 touchdowns from 2002-2003 before returning to coaching.

Gruden won a Super Bowl as an assistant coach with the Buccaneers in 2002, but he left along with his brother after the 2008 season. Again he found work on the fringes of pro football, becoming the offensive coordinator under head coach Jim Haslett for the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2009.



In 2010 he became the head coach of the Tuskers, who advanced to the UFL championship game in each of Gruden’s two seasons with the team.

Joe Theismann bought the Tuskers in 2010. In a 2013 interview with Philadelphia radio duo Brian Baldinger and Jon Marks, Theismann said Gruden was ready to handle the Philadelphia Eagles job that went to Chip Kelly.

Gruden interviewed with four teams last year before returning to Cincinnati.

“He’s very organized,” Theismann said of Gruden. “He knows exactly what he wants to a degree sometimes that he’s headstrong, which you really like in a head coach.

“He has a plan, and that’s what you really want. You want someone… to come in and tell you what they believe their beliefs are, not just say the things that the organization wants to hear.”


With the Bengals, Gruden proved his success in other modes of football can translate to the NFL. Cincinnati’s offense improved from 20th (319.9 yards per game) in 2011 and  22nd in 2012 (332.7) to 10th in 2013 (368.2).

At 46, he has plenty of time to make a name as an NFL head coach.

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