In 1993 and 1995, Redskins Radio Network broadcaster and former Redskins tight end Rick “Doc” Walker covered Tampa Bay Storm quarterback Jay Gruden in the ArenaBowl. Last week, Walker sat down with me at Redskins Park to talk about Gruden’s career hours before he would be introduced as Washington’s head coach. He commented on the coach as only he could. (The following interview has been edited and condensed).
Gabe Hiatt: What do you remember about calling Jay Gruden’s games in the AFL?
Doc Walker: He was a quarterback for Tampa Bay and also ultimately a head coach. They had an excellent team. He was highly competitive, smart and a good player, so it was fun. I’ve watched him go from player to coach to assistant coach to coordinator. I’ve watched his entire career, and it is interesting when I heard he was named here. That’s full circle for me.
GH: What do you remember from those games?
DW: It was a 50-yard, indoor war. I met his father. As a matter of fact, I knew about Jay, Jon, all of them early, because his father was a scout with the 49ers. This is a football family. A lot of times when I think about the Grudens, I think about a Sunday meal where everybody is sitting down having a meal, and they’re all talking about football, everybody, the whole family. It’s a football family. And I think that’s important to get guys that have the full pedigree and their all in. You don’t have to worry about what he’s doing in his spare time. They’re all football. And the 49ers, that’s just a terrific organization. That pedigree, it all goes through it. For Jay to have Jon to call, who does quarterback camps and schools, it’s just a heck of a resource to lean on. Yet he’s his own guy. I thought this football program here needed to fortify it’s football IQ, it’s football resources. Well you just tapped into a football family like the Harbaughs. This is a football guy who wasn’t given anything. As a matter of fact, it was probably harder on him because of his brother, and yet, he did it his way. I think that’s a hell of a success story.
“This is a football guy who wasn’t given anything. As a matter of fact, it was probably harder on him because of his brother, and yet, he did it his way. I think that’s a hell of a success story.”
GH: What were your impressions of Gruden as a player?
DW: He was good at what he did, but the player stuff, I expect that. All players, to me, I expect to play. When he made the conversion to becoming coordinator and head coach, and watching how he got men to follow him, that team was a perennial champion. He’s been in three different leagues of football. We’re talking about a football junkie. That’s Gruden. His brother may have gone there in limousine service. This kid thumbed, took a taxi, took the Metro. He did whatever it took to get there, but he got there too. It’s hard following someone with notoriety. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be done, and he’s done it doing it his way. You know his brother’s a Super Bowl champion, but he was also on that staff. What I was looking for here was anybody that’s had pedigree, that’s seen how you win, the formula to win. I don’t give a damn about how it’s promoted. I want to get people in here who are focused on 100 percent winning the game, and then winning a championship. That’s the only language I will ever get into. I’m now speaking and focused on one thing here, and that is winning. And I think this guys has a chance if they will support him. From the top down in every area, every office in this park, my dream is that it will be football driven.
“This kid thumbed, took a taxi, took the Metro. He did whatever it took to get there, but he got there, too. “
GH: What are you looking to see from him making his first impression as a head coach?
DW: I don’t expect him to come up there and say maroon and black. I don’t expect that. I expect that he will understand the history and more importantly the urgency that’s here right now to get us back in the winner’s circle.
GH: What does his unconventional background do for him? What are the pros and cons of thumbing his way and hitching his way into the league?
DW: He’s passionate. His brother hired him; he’s worked for several other people. If they didn’t like him, they didn’t have to keep hiring him. I also like the fact that – you know if you get a guy who just won the Super Bowl, that’s great. I got a guy who’s mad as hell who just got eliminated with a better team. And the subject of their contention was his quarterback, at his position. Yet I know what that program was like before he got there. He left it better off. Ain’t no question about what he did in Cincinnati. But I think he’s pissed off enough right now at what happened in that loss that he’s anxious to get out there and get back in that arena, which is the playoffs. And now he’s got another project. Here are two young quarterbacks that need to be developed. I like the fact that that’s his forte.
“I got a guy who’s mad as hell who just got eliminated with a better team. And the subject of their contention was his quarterback, at his position. Yet I know what that program was like before he got there. He left it better off.”
Tags: Doc Walker, Jay Gruden, washington redskins
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