After thirteen consecutive losing seasons, the
Buccaneers hired Tony Dungy in January of 1996 to turn things around. The Bucs
would have to endure one more losing season, but in 1997, things began to turn
around, and the Bucs became one of the most feared teams in the league… but it
wasn't enough. Five straight non-losing seasons, and four playoff appearances
only left Buc fans wanting more. Enter Jon Gruden.
Jon Gruden was born August 17, 1963 in Sandusky, Ohio, a port community located
on the banks of Lake Erie.
In 1978, Jon's father, Jim, was hired by Dan Devine at Notre Dame. Jon worked
out with the Fighting Irish players, and turned into a solid quarterback for the
Colonials at South Bend Clay High School. More cut out for the mental part of
the game rather than the physical, Jon would never be the quarterback his
brother Jay would go on to be.
Upon graduating from high school, Jon attended Muskingum College in New Concord,
Ohio because he felt he'd have a chance to play there rather than at Notre Dame
where he would've received free tuition as a coach's child.
Around this time, Jim Gruden served as an assistant with the Buccaneers under
John McKay (1982-83). Jon and Jay would spend a lot of time with the team. In
1987, the Bucs fired Jim, who was Director of Player Personnel at that time.
After that, for all intents and purposes, the Grudens hated the Buccaneers
franchise. Jim and his wife, Kathy, continued to live in Tampa and Jon's mother
would become an elementary school teacher. Jay became an all-state quarterback
at Chamberlain High School in Tampa and would go on to break several passing
records at the University of Louisville under renowned coach Howard
After one year at Muskingum, Jon transferred to the University of Dayton. He
didn't see much action with the Flyers, but the team went 24-7 in his three
seasons there. In 1986, Jon graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in
Communications. In 2001, the National Alumni Association of the University of
Dayton recognized Gruden's commitment to his family, players, community and
school and awarded him their Special Achievement Award.
After college, Jon began his coaching career with the University of Tennessee
where he was an assistant from 1986 to '87. The Vols were 17-7-1 during that
time, and won the Liberty and Peach Bowls. It was at Tennessee where Jon would
meet his wife to be, cheerleader Cindy Brooks.
In 1988, Jon was the passing game coordinator at Southeast Missouri State.
In 1989, former Vols offensive coordinator Walt Harris took over as head coach
at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and brought Jon in as
wide receivers coach.
In 1990, Jon began his career in the National Football League when he landed a
job with the San Francisco 49ers as an offensive assistant. Able to work side by
side with the likes of George Seifert, Mike Holmgren and Ray Rhodes, Jon became
a "West Coast Offense" man.
The following year, Jon took a one-year hiatus from the NFL to become the wide
receivers coach for the University of Pittsburgh under legendary head coach Paul
When Mike Holmgren left the 49ers in 1992 to coach the Packers, he fulfilled a
promise and called upon Jon to become his offensive assistant. In 1993, Gruden
was promoted to receivers coach.
After three years with Green Bay, yet another former 49ers coach called Jon.
From 1995 to '97, 31 year old Jon served under Ray Rhodes with the Philadelphia
Eagles as the league's youngest offensive coordinator, where he learned to deal
with the egos of Randall Cunningham and Ricky Watters (practice for Keyshawn?).
In his three seasons with the Eagles, his offense never finished worse than
fifth in the NFC in rushing, and lead the conference in passing in 1996.
In 1998, Jon became the third youngest head coach in the 40-year history of the
Oakland Raiders. Since moving back to Oakland following the 1994 season, the
Raiders had not had a winning season. Jon quickly changed that, however, as the
Silver and Black improved to 8-8 his first two seasons, and winning the AFC West
the next two seasons.
In his first season in Oakland, Raiders running back Harvey Williams took note
of Gruden's arched eyebrow and lop-sided grin, and dubbed him "Chucky" after
noticing a resemblance with the evil doll in the horror flick "Child's Play".
Maybe it was his four years in California that earned him the exposure, but in
2001, People Magazine named Jon Gruden as one of their 50 Most Beautiful People.
Knowing he would be the butt of jokes, Jon grinned and yelled, "You don't like
it? Well, I don't give a s***, because I'm one of the m***** f****** most
beautiful people on this planet!"
On January 14, 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Tony Dungy. It
only took just over a week for Dungy to find another head coaching job as the
Indianapolis Colts hired him to replace Jim Mora. After failed attempts to hire
Bill Parcells, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lured Gruden away from the Raiders and
named him the Buccaneers seventh head coach on February 18, 2002. It wasn't
cheap though. The Buccaneers gave up their first and second-round draft picks
this year, their first-round pick next season and their second-round pick in
2004. Also, the Buccaneers have to pay the Raiders $8 million over the next
But, it seems to be a win-win-win situation. The Raiders are pleased with the
compensation received, the Colts are happy with their new coach and of course,
the Bucs are looking forward to much success with their new coach. All three
teams reached the post-season in 2002. The Bucs, at 12-4, finished with their
best record in franchise history, the Raiders, at 11-5, had the best record in
the AFC and earned home-field advantage and the Colts, at 10-6, returned to the
playoffs following a disappointing 6-10 season in 2001. The Bucs and Raiders
won their respective conferences to face each other in Super Bowl XXXVII. The
Buccaneers routed the Raiders 48-21 to bring the city of Tampa their first
championship in any professional major league sport.
Gruden's father, Jim, is now a regional scout for the San Francisco 49ers. His
brother, Jay, played Arena Football with the Tampa Bay Storm, winning four
championships, and is now the head coach of the AFL's Orlando Predators, winning
championships in 1998 and 2000. Sherry Gruden, Jay's wife, worked in marketing
for the Buccaneers from 1993 to '96. Jon and Cindy Gruden have three sons, Jon
II, Michael and Jayson.
Written by: Ronnie Boone, October 25, 2002 Edited January 27, 2003
Sources: NFL Record & Fact Book, Sports Illustrated and various websites.