Gruden Talks Bucs, Bennigan’s & Beer Kegs

November 16th, 2016

irakaufman columnist eye-RAH! Kaufman gets to hang out with all sorts of important people across the NFL. This week, it was Chucky, aka Super Bowl head coach Jon Gruden. 


The Florida Sports Hall of Fame enshrined a new class Tuesday night and there was no debate when it came to choosing the headliner.

It was a heavyweight night at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre in Tampa, where Steve Spurrier and Mike Tirico turned out to support a class that included Lightning founder Phil Esposito and ex-Rays outfielder Johnny Damon.

Also honored were former University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and Allison Jolly, the USF sailing coach who won an Olympic gold medal in 1988.

But one 5-foot-10 inductee towered above the field, a 53-year-old workaholic who just happened to coach the 2002 Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship.

Jon Gruden was the last class member invited up to the stage by emcee Gayle Sierens, who is sorely missed every day by viewers of the WFLA news broadcasts.

Tears In Chucky’s Eyes

In his eighth season as ESPN’s analyst for Monday Night Football, Gruden remains a proud Tampa resident, staying close to his mom and dad.

“My mom is having knee surgery tomorrow,” Gruden said. “She’s 79 years old and she’ll be out 4-to-6 weeks … we’ll have her back soon.”

Yes, that was Gruden releasing an injury report on his own mother. I’m surprised he didn’t list her as questionable for Friday night’s pinochle game.

Football is in Gruden’s blood and it meant a lot to him that Tirico flew into town as a show of respect for a former broadcast partner.

Although Gruden’s 57-55 record during seven years as Buc coach won’t get him a bust in Canton, he did win three NFC South crowns while providing Tampa Bay fans with their most cherished sports memory.

“The Super Bowl still brings tears to my eyes,” said Gruden. “My last year in Tampa, we beat KC and I got a game ball. It said: ‘Jon Gruden, winningest coach in Buc history.’ Let me hear it.”

As applause filled the room, Gruden continued.

“A few weeks later, we beat the Saints in a rainstorm and they said ‘Jon Gruden, third-youngest coach to win 100 games.’ Let me hear it.”

More thunderous applause.

“Four weeks later, I got fired,” Gruden said. “At that point, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I was staying in Florida.”

When Gruden was canned on Jan. 16, 2009, Buc fans didn’t realize the heartache they would endure in his absence. Four head coaches later, Tampa Bay is still seeking another playoff berth.

Return Possible

The man doesn’t look half bad in the rearview mirror, and I still think there’s a decent chance Gruden returns to the sidelines.

Gruden’s youngest son is a high school sophomore and when Jayson goes off to college, a move back to the NFL will be more likely. That contract extension binding Gruden to ESPN through 2021 won’t be much of an obstacle if Gruden decides to return.

But where?

It won’t be in Tampa. That pirate ship has sailed.

But the right franchise, with the right owner and most importantly the right quarterback, could prompt the return of Chucky.

Meanwhile, Gruden’s love affair with the Bay area remains strong.

“In 1985, my dad moved here and became the running backs coach of the Bucs,” he said. “All I ever wanted to do was be a Buc player or coach. The first guy I met was Scot Brantley, who is here tonight. Scot’s the guy who taught me how to chew Copenhagen. It took me a year-and-a-half to figure out how to put that pinch between your cheek and gum. Dammit, it took me 15 years to learn how to quit.”

Gruden worked a few odd jobs in Tampa before landing his first football gig.

“I got a job at Bennigan’s as a waiter,” he said. “I worked there for three weeks before I got in a fight with a customer and they fired me. Then I got a job with an upstart place on Hillsborough Avenue called Hooters. It was there that I became a legendary oyster shucker, wing shaker and beer keg changer.”

Gruden seemed genuinely excited about joining the membership of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. That begs a question on the minds of many Buc fans, directed toward the Glazer family:

When oh when is Jon Gruden going into the Ring of Honor?

18 Responses to “Gruden Talks Bucs, Bennigan’s & Beer Kegs”

  1. ElioT Says:

    Always loved hearing Gruden barking on the sidelines and in practice about mental toughness.

    “You gotta be mentally tough men!”

  2. THunderSack Says:

    I didn’t realize that he was/is so firmly rooted in the Tampa community. That is pretty awesome!

  3. Trauma Murse Says:

    I was one of the one’s clamoring for him to get fired…It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized he was doing more with less than any head coach in football. He was really put in a bad spot. the team had traded the future away to get him here. The championship was worth it, but it sure made his job a lot harder.

  4. ndog Says:

    Great coach but horrible at talent evaluation. The drafts that he conducted, and yes I said he cause he got McKay fired to bring in his boy Allen, were dreadful. Cadillac over A. Rodgers, G. Adams over AP and it goes on and on and that is why he was fired not his coaching ability. If him and McKay could have worked together then we could have truly had a dynasty. Sad deal.

  5. Lunchbox Says:

    Although I know it would never happen, I’d love to see Gruden roaming our sidelines again one day, screaming at refs. I always felt he got a raw deal being run out of town. I’m excited to see what the future holds with coach Koetter, but having Gruden back would put butts in the seats.

  6. Pit Says:

    How do you go from a waiter to a head coach?

  7. Mort Says:

    You guys should read his book “Do You Love Football?”

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    Thanks for the Super Bowl win coach Gruden. Longtime Bucs fans are forever grateful for that wonderful accomplishment.

  9. unbelievable Says:

    Forever grateful indeed. Ugh, that last season was such heartache for Bucs fans.

    9 – 3, tied for 1st in the NFC, Monte tells everyone he’s leaving, the defense collapses and we lose 4 straight, miss the playoffs, and Chucky was gone. Brooks was gone. In came Rah Rah. One winning season since…

    The drafting / talent evaluation was most certainly Chucky’s downfall. If there had still been a GM with real power, I have not doubt we would have stayed a contender for years.

  10. Bculaw Says:

    I am a fan of Koetter. Glad he is our coach. I loved Chucky. I always felt like he should have been the coach that should have been synonymous with the Cuty and the Bucd organization given his success and ties to the communit. Could you imagine how much film would have to be in stock at OBP with him and Jameis in the same building?!? Those two football junkies were made for each othe.

  11. tmaxcon Says:

    Greatest bucs coach ever followed by mcckay… I believe Jay Gruden still holds records at chamberlain high. Lots of Gruden Bay area connections

  12. orlbucfan Says:

    Screw Egomaniac Chucky and the whatever he rode in on. Dungy is in the HOF and ego Chucky ain’t!

  13. dave Says:

    why couldnt we bring him back

  14. orlbucfan Says:

    Who dat? Dungy or Hot Air?

  15. BuccaneEric75 Says:

    Damn, orlbucfan, a little bit of hate there? They’re both great coaches.

  16. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    another nice article Ira. How can a real Bucs’ fan not love Chucky?!

  17. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Best bucs coach ever probably only coach to have 2 teams in the super bowl at same time, dungy is in the hall of fame??? cmon

  18. No Chief, No Chucky Says:

    Jay Gruden played at Chamberlain for Billy Turner in 1983-84. Went to Louisville with Howard Schnellenberger 1985-88 & beat Alabama in a Fiesta Bowl. His Storm teams won AFL Championships, as did his Predators, & he’s the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s players & squinted a lot for the cameras. The Florida Sports Hall of Fame inducted the wrong brother.