Jon Gruden's return to the Raiders was confirmed earlier this week, with the charismatic coach reportedly signing a record-breaking 10-year $100 million deal.
Gruden makes his return to Oakland 17 years after he was traded to the Buccaneers, but he hasn't coached anywhere since 2008. After nine years as the face of ESPN's MNF broadcast he has finally been lured back into the coaching world, andaccording to Jerry Rice, his players better be prepared for him.
The Hall of Fame wideout spent one season under Gruden in Oakland and has warned players that they must 'buy in'.
“He can be your best friend or your worst enemy. That’s going to keep you on your toes. And maybe that was something that the players, they were lacking this year." Rice told ESPN.
"…I hope these players are ready because they’re going to get Chucky. They’re going to get him … Chucky’s going to come out. Either you buy in, or you're not going to be a part of it."
Gruden's intensity is well known. As is his propensity to yell at his players and coaches. His link to the Chucky doll from the 1988 movie 'Child's Play' came from his resemblance to Chucky when he gets fired up on the touchline.
As a motivator, few have ever been better and this young crop of Raiders stars will soon discover that.
Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and co will get chewed out publicly when they mess up, that's the way Gruden has always operated.
Future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson endorses both Rice's claims, and Gruden's methods. The eight-time all-pro safety played four seasons under the effervescent head coach and said that the players need to be ready for how demanding he is.
"Yeah, he's coming for them, man," Woodson said. "... if you don't respond, you've got to go. You're all-in or nothing."
Woodson also noted Gruden's celebrity status, saying:
"...one thing that will probably take them by surprise is the star-like quality that Gruden has and the relationship that he had with the fan base when he was here. They haven't seen that. So he'll be the most popular guy on the sideline."
Gruden had an impressive 38-26 record during his first stint with the Raiders before being traded to Tampa Bay in 2002, leading the Bucs to their first-ever Super Bowl win in his first season in charge.
He now faces a stern test to turn around a promising young roster coming off a disappointing 6-10 season, whilst managing the difficulties of a fanbase that knows it's team is disappearing to Vegas shortly.
However, the fans have already united around Gruden who was an enormously popular figure throughout his time in Oakland. His time in the broadcasting booth was well spent and it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone if he where to be an instant hit.
His intense coaching style does clash with players though, so it will be interesting to see how this young group adapts to the style of their new, high profile coach.
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