Jon Gruden: A Cheat Sheet for the Former Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach’s Potential Lawsuit Against Roger Goodell and the NFL

Article Highlights:

  • Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is reportedly considering suing the NFL
  • The 58-year-old resigned his post in October after offensive emails he sent while working at ESPN leaked
  • Here’s everything you need to know about a potential lawsuit involving Gruden and the NFL

When fourth-year Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned on Oct. 11 amid an email scandal, it likely spelled the end of his longtime career in the NFL. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last from the 58-year-old — far from it, in fact.

Gruden, who spent four years in his most recent tenure with the Raiders, is reportedly considering suing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league at large. Any potential lawsuit would center on the timing of the emails.

Jon Gruden is reportedly considering suing Roger Goodell and the NFL

Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden (L) is reportedly considering suing Roger Goodell and the NFL | Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For the sake of background, let’s quickly recap the key points in the Gruden saga. On Oct. 8, The Wall Street Journal published emails he sent in 2011 involving a racial trope aimed at DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Players Association and a Black man. 

Although Gruden coached two days later, he stepped down when The New York Times published more of his emails, all of which he’d sent while working at ESPN, which contained offensive language and content. Investigators had unearthed those emails during the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s culture; Gruden sent the messages in conversations with former Washington executive Bruce Allen.

According to CBS Sports, Gruden is exploring his legal options, some of which include filing a lawsuit against Goodell and the NFL over how the emails were handled. The NFL has insisted it did not leak the emails.

CBS Sports said Gruden, who resigned midway through a 10-year, $100 million contract, lost roughly $50 million in future salary. Jason La Canfora also reported that lawyers believe Gruden could have a “tortious interference case,” one claiming the NFL “influenced his ouster for private emails that were sent while he was not a league employee that was revealed at a time to inflict maximum damage to Gruden’s career.”

As of publication, Gruden had not filed any type of lawsuit against the NFL or announced an intention to do so.

Any lawsuit would likely center around the timing of the emails

Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in 2021.
Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has likely held his last prominent position in the NFL | Chris Unger/Getty Images

Before diving too deep into why Gruden would potentially sue the NFL, we need to note this would not be a financially driven decision. He would not be going after Goodell solely to recoup the aforementioned $50 million.

Gruden admitted to sending the emails, and he’s unlikely to ever hold a prominent position, if any, in the NFL again. This isn’t about rejoining the Raiders or even restoring his reputation. 

The issue is solely about the emails. Someone who had the emails leaked them to two different news organizations during the season. The NFL has also refused to publish the full findings of the investigation that led to Gruden’s resignation — and he never even worked for Washington, the team whose culture led to the investigation.

CBS Sports reported there were 650,00 emails found. Any lawsuit would almost certainly involve lawyers asking why only Gruden’s, all of which he sent before returning to the NFL in January 2018, were leaked to the press.

Don’t expect to see Gruden sue Mark Davis and the Raiders anytime soon


Retired All-Pro Wideout Andre Rison Defends Former Coach Jon Gruden after Offensive Emails: ‘We’ve All Made Mistakes’

If Gruden does sue the NFL, he technically would and wouldn’t be suing the Raiders organization. It’s important to note the distinction. The Raiders, of course, are one of the league’s 32 franchises.

However, Gruden is not expected to file any type of separate suit against the Raiders organization. Raiders owner Mark Davis confirmed in October that he’d settled with his former head coach.

Davis, who took over the organization in 2011 upon his father’s death, has also been a vocal advocate for the NFL to release its written findings of the Washington investigation. The 66-year-old also criticized the timing and said the NFL had the emails for several months before they were leaked.