Oh, no. Mark Davis has gotten into the catnip.
I mean, the haircut and the white suits might have been an early indication of strange inner workings, but Davis has always sported those, and has otherwise come across as a fairly normal guy. He’s gone around the bend, though, and I’m not talking about the left turn to Highway 58 on the Oakland-to-Las Vegas route.
Davis is hiring Jon Gruden as his head coach, and plans to introduce him at team headquarters Tuesday.
Nothing irrational in that. In fact, it’s a move that many NFL teams have tried to execute since Gruden left the sidelines for the announcing booth in 2009.
What’s bonkers in the price tag. As first reported by ESPN on Friday, Gruden will sign a 10-year contract worth $100 million.
NFL teams don’t release information on coaches’ salaries, but Gruden’s deal is believed to be the most lucrative in league history.
In fact, he will out-earn every player in the NFL, too. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford currently tops that list with a contract that includes $92 million in guarantees. Much of a player’s contract is non-guaranteed, despite a job description that includes shredded knees and shoulders, chronic head trauma and the occasional bout of paralysis. Not so for coaches. As soon as Gruden signs that piece of paper, Davis will be on the hook for the full $100 mil.
The numbers explained a lot. When the Gruden rumors first resurfaced in December, word was that Davis would give his recycled coach an ownership stake in the Raiders. Turns out that wasn’t necessary. Gruden won’t need to own the team, because he’s about to own the owner.
Not bad for a coach who hasn’t drawn up a game plan in nearly a decade, and whose six most recent coaching campaigns (with the Buccaneers from 2003-08) produced a record of 45-51.
But I’m not here to bash Gruden. He resuscitated a comatose Raiders team in the late 1990s, and he won a Super Bowl his first year in Tampa Bay. He has a magnetic personality, and will be a valuable frontman when the Raiders move to Las Vegas, probably in 2020, and put those pricey seat licenses up for sale.
But 100 million smackers? Over 10 years?
Since 2000, NFL teams have hired 123 head coaches. Only seven of them remained on the job a decade later.
Twenty others are active, and perhaps you like the chances of Cleveland’s Hue Jackson and Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter to make it to their 10-year anniversaries. That leaves 96 coaches who arrived with great optimism and lasted single-digit years.
Honestly, I thought Jed York was behaving erratically when he gave six-year deals to general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan a year ago. So much can happen in six years. Or even one. Remember the excitement attached to York’s hiring of Chip Kelly in 2015? It took three months for that fruit basket to go rotten.
At least Shanahan had some recent coaching memories. Gruden hasn’t been responsible for a game since before Michael Crabtree came into the league. It’s easy to imagine Gruden taking a fairly talented Raiders team to the playoffs sometime soon. It’s just as easy to picture five years of mediocrity and an owner debating a huge buyout.