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The Future Of Jon Gruden Following Praise As Youngest Coach To Win Super Bowl

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Jon Gruden was once the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. Then he left coaching to be an announcer for "Monday Night Football." Now he has returned to coaching for the Oakland Raiders, which means that, unfortunately for him, sports commentary is left to Mike Pesca.

MIKE PESCA: The worst team right now in the NFL is the Oakland Raiders - fewest wins, fewest stars, worst vibe. A few days before the season started, the Raiders traded away their best defensive player. Last week, they traded away their best player on offense. The Raiders are a wreck. In situations like this, the head coach usually gets the blame, and Jon Gruden deserves it. When Gruden left broadcasting for a $10 million a year deal with the Raiders, he knew they weren't a great team. But under his leadership, they've become a terrible one. Gruden's salary is on the team's balance sheet. But aren't we all owed a refund for having to listen to Gruden for nine years on "Monday Night Football"?

Of course, it's a time-honored tradition for fans to resent certain announcers. Still, six years into his "Monday Night Football" gig, The New York Times wrote, a game called by Gruden is often an unfulfilling journey, even when his partner tries to push him into commentating clarity. During a game, Gruden would shift from thesis to thesis with total conviction, even when he was contradicting a point he'd made moments earlier. And yet, he had a fine track record from his coaching days and would often use jargony references. So maybe he was just much smarter than us, and we weren't gritty enough to understand Gruden. Yet, there were other announcers who seemed smart and didn't use their words to make the games less enjoyable.

The Gruden experience wasn't so much a chore as a conundrum. As an announcer, he was dim and gruff. Yet, each time a coaching vacancy came open, his name was wafted, as if this substandard Monday night opiner was somehow still a Sunday afternoon savant. Even so, given the Raiders' awful season, I don't feel schadenfreude. If anything, I feel relief, as if a lingering suspicion about this guy's outsized bluster to ballast ratio has finally been put to a test. The Raiders have given us bad football but good evidence. It seems like the man who was the worst announcer in football is now the worst coach in football, which doesn't make me happy. But at least it makes sense.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBERT WALTER'S 20TH CONGRESS' "INVERSION LAYER")

INSKEEP: Commentator Mike Pesca, the host of Slate's daily podcast The Gist. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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