Jay Gruden returns to AFL
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2003 at 1:38 a.m.
ORLANDO- Jay Gruden has six rings from quarterbacking and coaching teams to Arena Football League championships.
Last Sunday he earned a more valuable piece of jewelry as an assistant to his older brother, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jon Gruden. The Bucs won their first Super Bowl title by defeating the Oakland Raiders 48-21.
"Being an offensive-assistant-to-the-assistant-type guy, I didn't have too much to do with this (title) as I did the other ones," Jay Gruden said. "But being it's the biggest stage in the world, and being it's my brother and Tampa's first Super Bowl, I'd say it's awesome."
Jay Gruden had little time to enjoy his small role in pro football's biggest show. Less than 48 hours after the victory in San Diego, he joined the AFL's Orlando Predators for their final days of the preseason.
The team's season opener is Sunday in Chicago, and the 35-year-old quarterback is expected to take the first snap.
Cutting short his practice time might have finally given opponents the edge they needed against Gruden, who long ago proved himself as an AFL superstar.
As a rookie in 1991, Gruden won the first of four Arena Bowls with the Storm, and he was league MVP the next year. When he retired following the 1996 season, he owned almost every AFL career record for quarterbacks.
Gruden spent a year as Nashville's offensive coordinator before taking over the Predators in 1998. At 30, he was the youngest head coach in league history.
He won the AFL championship that year, becoming the first in league history to win rings as both a player and coach. Another title came in 2000 before Gruden made an incredible comeback to the playing field after a five-season layoff. With Gruden throwing for a team-record 68 touchdowns and 3,621 yards in 14 games, Orlando reached the AFL semifinals.
Jon Gruden, who is 3-1/2 years older than his brother, was hired away from Oakland to become the Bucs' coach last year, and Jay went to work for him after the Predators' playoff run ended.
"There's thousands of coaches out there dying to get into the NFL in any capacity, and for me to get on with Jon Gruden, it's a great opportunity," Jay Gruden said. "Not only because he's my brother, but because he's well-known for his great offensive mind."
During the season, Jay Gruden was fairly low in the coaching staff's hierarchy. Working 16-hour days, he mostly watched tapes of opposing teams, breaking down defensive tendencies. He helped whenever and wherever he was needed. He also kept his arm loose by playing catch with the Bucs' receivers.
It was a thrill for Gruden working for his brother as Tampa Bay surged through two playoff victories and advanced to the Super Bowl. But the arrangement was beneficial for both men.
"In a lot of ways, Jay is what has helped Jon to become so driven," Orlando coach Fran Papasdero said. "Jay was always more successful from an athletic standpoint than Jon, and Jon will be the first one to tell you that. So Jon was always working harder and harder to be able to compete against his younger brother."
Jay Gruden is the second Orlando player with a Super Bowl ring; wide receiver/linebacker Cory Fleming earned his in 1996 as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys.
While it remains to be seen how much Gruden's season in the NFL will help him in the Arena League, he said the experience was valuable.
"I've learned so much from Jon as far as organization goes and team preparation and all that good stuff, I think it'll help as far as getting the team ready to play," he said.
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