- Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said he’d eventually be willing to forgive former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden
- Gruden resigned on Oct. 11 following leaked emails containing offensive comments
- Flores isn’t the only notable NFL figure who has mentioned forgiving Gruden
Gruden resigned on Oct. 11 amid a scandal involving offensive and insensitive emails he sent while working at ESPN from 2011-18. Less than three weeks after a crushing overtime loss to the Raiders, Flores offered insightful commentary regarding his former opponent.
Dolphins head coach Brian Flores preached forgiveness when discussing Jon Gruden
Flores, who turns 41 in February, is one of only three active Black head coaches in the NFL. He, Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Mike Tomlin, and Houston Texans first-year man David Culley make up the tiny club.
Still, don’t consider Flores among those publicly celebrating Gruden’s departure. According to The Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins’ third-year coach called the situation “unfortunate” and said he hates seeing “anything that brings any type of division.”
Gruden’s emails involved a racial trope aimed at DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association and a Black man, and homophobic remarks directed at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former St. Louis Rams pass-rusher Michael Sam, among other offensive comments. Sam, who is openly gay, spent the 2014 preseason with the Rams and also briefly spent time in the Dallas Cowboys organization.
“There’s consequences for your actions and the things you say, and I think we all should learn something from it. At the same time, I believe in forgiveness. … I never want to judge someone based on the worst thing they’ve ever said or done. I don’t think anybody here would. I know I wouldn’t.”Brian Flores
As of publication, Gruden had not publicly addressed the incident beyond a statement following his resignation.
The NFL world has had differing reactions to the Gruden scandal
Some in sports media, including ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson, have celebrated Gruden’s departure and criticized the NFL’s culture. Johnson played for Gruden on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early 2000s.
Current and retired NFL head coaches haven’t taken that approach. Flores said he believes in forgiveness and mentioned the potential to learn lessons. Tomlin, who worked for Gruden on the Buccaneers from 2002-05, said the situation “saddened” him. Rams head coach Sean McVay worked for Gruden in 2008 and called it a “really unfortunate circumstance.”
Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy defended Gruden — who replaced him as the Buccaneers’ head coach after the 2001 season — on Sunday, Oct. 10, when discussing the email regarding DeMaurice Smith. In a Twitter thread following Gruden’s resignation, the Super Bowl 41 champion called the ex-Raiders coach’s emails “inappropriate” and “immature.”
However, Dungy said he’s not ready to close the door on Gruden just yet.
“If Jon Gruden shows TRUE remorse — and more importantly changes his mindset and actions — I would forgive him,” Dungy tweeted, explaining his beliefs originated from his Chrisitan faith.
Former players have responded quite differently.
Former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace tweeted, “Gruden had to go, simple as that.” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said “that s*** doesn’t fly” during a Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
Fox Sports analyst and ex-Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho said people shouldn’t blame “cancel culture.”
“This is called accountability,” Acho tweeted. “Period.”
ESPN’s Robert Griffin III, who played for Gruden’s brother, Jay, on the Washington Football Team, kept things simple.
“You can’t be racist, homophobic and misogynistic,” Griffin tweeted. “You shouldn’t be any of them.”
Gruden’s former players publicly opted for love and perspective
Less than two days after Gruden stepped down, his former players addressed the media and offered their thoughts. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr admitted he is sad for the organization and the fans during what he called a “weird time.”
As for Gruden, Carr said he still loves the coach and his family but hates the “sin.”
“I will always be someone [who] no matter who does what, I’m going to love you,” Carr told reporters, according to ESPN. “And if that’s wrong, then I’m OK being wrong.”
Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who is Black, called Gruden’s emails “inexcusable.” However, he is following Dungy in not wanting to give up on the Super Bowl 37 champion just yet.
“I want to offer somebody grace and allow them to learn from what they may have done,” Waller said, “and that’s what I’m trying to do right now for Coach.”