Former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and disgraced Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden don’t get along. The two have been at odds for years, ever since Gruden sent the pass-catcher home for the second half of the 2003 season.
Now that Gruden is out in Las Vegas following the emergence of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic emails over the course of seven years, Johnson is again talking about his issues with the coach, and it now seems like the player was in the right.
Keyshawn Johnson and Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl together but didn’t get along
After four tumultuous seasons with the New York Jets, 1996 No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During two seasons under head coach Tony Dungy, the talented team fell short, losing in the playoffs in 2000 and 2001.
In 2002, the organization brought Jon Gruden in from the then-Oakland Raiders, and the coach led the Bucs to the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl.
The following season, Johnson and Gruden’s relationship became so bad that the coach essentially kicked him off the team — while still paying the reciever — for the last seven games of the 2003 season. The following offseason, the team traded Johnson to the Dallas Cowboys for WR Joey Galloway.
In 2011, Johnson described a toxic environment around Gruden’s team that he didn’t want to be a part of, per PFT:
I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be in the environment. No matter we had just won a championship, and I was playing fine the year that I got deactivated, I was doing great. In fact, we had a chance to go to the playoffs. But it was just something about the way I was being coached, talked to, dealt with. Just didn’t want to be there. So for me, I was happy when I got the phone call that said, ‘Hey, we’re going to deactivate you for the rest of the year.’ I was excited.Keyshawn Johnson on his feud with Jon Gruden
The year that Johnson made those comments is the same year Gruden sent the first email that came out, which referred to NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith with an offensive racial trope. When more of Gruden’s emails emerged days later that included “misogynistic and homophobic language to disparage people,” according to the New York Times, Gruden resigned as the Raiders’ head coach.
Now, Johnson’s decade-old words seem prophetic.
Johnson destroyed Gruden after he resigned as Las Vegas Raiders head coach
Now that at least some of Keyshawn Johnson’s feelings seem vindicated, the retired receiver again took to the ESPN airwaves to discuss his opinions on Jon Gruden.
On his ESPN morning show, Keyshawn, JWill & Max, the former Buccaneer pulled no punches when discussing Gruden:
I didn’t know that Jon would say things like that and put them in an email. He’s just always been a fraud to me. … From day one, he’s been a used-car salesman, and people bought it because he inherited a championship team built by [former coach] Tony Dungy and [general manager] Rich McKay, and he came in there with a little bit of different energy than we had with Tony, and it kind of kicked us over the top to get our world championship, which I am grateful for. But at the same time, I also saw through who he was through that journey of getting a championship.Keyshawn Johnson on Jon Gruden
Johnson also described a scene at the end of the Super Bowl when Gruden snatched the trophy away from McKay, “basically saying, ‘Give me this, this belongs to me,'” and said that McKay left for the Atlanta Falcons GM job in the middle of the next season because he didn’t want to deal with Gruden’s “shenanigans.”
Who will be the Raiders’ next coach?
Now that Gruden is out, Rich Bisaccia is the interim head coach. Bisaccia has been the Raiders’ assistant head coach/special teams coordinator and has been with the club for four seasons, per NFL.com.
Chances are, Bisaccia, who has no head coaching experience, will not be the long-term replacement for Gruden. Who that person will be is the subject of much speculation now.
Possible replacements will likely come from one of three categories.
The first category is the hot coordinator names. This includes offensive coordinators like the Kansas City Chiefs’ Eric Bieniemy, the Buffalo Bills’ Brian Daboll, the Carolina Panthers’ Joe Brady, the Buccaneers’ Byron Leftwich, and the Cowboys’ Kellen Moore.
Category two is Black assistant coaches with NFL head coaching experience. Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and Tampa Bay DC Todd Bowles both deserve a second shot at a head coaching job and would go a long way to helping the Raiders move on in the locker room and from a PR perspective following the Jon Gruden scandal.
The third bucket is a true Raiders pick. Owner Mark Davis’ dad, Al Davis, never did anything by the book. He seemingly always made the outside-the-box choice and loved former Raiders players. Could Mark follow suit?
In this case, the next Raiders head coach could be Hall of Fame Raider Tim Brown or FOX’s Howie Long. Or, maybe he decides to make a big splash and call up NFL legend Deion Sanders from Jackson State.
With Davis and the Raiders, you just never know, and no option is too wild.
This leads to the dark-horse prediction for the next Las Vegas Raiders head coach: Keyshawn Johnson.