With the second to last episode of Hard Knocks: Oakland Raiders airing tonight, I wanted to share some thoughts about how the show has portrayed head coach Jon Gruden.
In week two of Hard Knocks, we saw a side of Jon Gruden that Raiders fans came to love during his first stint of the team. The yelling, cursing, off the wall personality that earned him the nickname “Chucky” after some said he reminded them of the movie featuring a maniacal children’s toy turned serial killer.
And the return of Chucky brought a smile to many faces throughout Raider Nation, mine included.
But for the most part, Hard Knocks has shown a different side of Gruden, and I for one, appreciate it.
It would be easy television for HBO to just throw up clip after clip of Gruden yelling at his players. It creates great quotes (who doesn’t want to hear more crazy insults like being compared to a casual house mouse?). But instead of going for the cheap win, HBO challenged some of the stereotypes that have arisen about Gruden.
“He’s old and can’t relate to the younger players”
“He’s too tough for Derek Carr, their relationship will never work”
“The first time Antonio Brown acts up, Gruden is going to lose it, he won’t put up with any antics”
All of these were discussed at nauseam since Gruden re-joined the Raiders. And Hard Knocks is attacking those talking points one by one.
Remember when Johnathan Abram seemingly challenged Gruden after being told to be less physical in practice? If you believed the talking points above, something like that should have set Gruden off.
Instead, he related to the young player and had a good talk that didn’t involve yelling or cursing. Just communication.
Then there was the scene where Antonio Brown thanks Gruden for supporting him during helmet gate.
And of course, there is the love between Gruden and Carr. Rather than the yelling and hurt feelings that were predicted, we see two men clearly on the same page.
I get that some Raiders fans want to see more of Chucky and less of the calm and collected Jon Gruden. Like I said before, it’s good television. I know I enjoy watching Chucky.
But it’s also shallow television. I believe we are seeing an attempt to dig deeper into the complex character that is Jon Gruden. And I for one love seeing HBO cover Gruden in a way that is riskier for them, but more valuable to Raiders fans.