If I was at the NFL draft this year, I would be Jon Gruden. We both love football. We love the players. And we both hate Steve Young.
Any time the Hall of Fame quarterback opened his mouth tonight, Gruden was there with a squinty eyed grimace. He stares at Young like a newborn stares at a fresh batch of celery – he’s not quite sure what it is, but he hates it.
Young was two and a half minutes deep into a schpeal about how Brett Favre should retire. Undoubtedly, he had practiced this schpeal into his mirror every night while he brushed his teeth. “Steve Young is 40, but Steve Young knows when to quit!” He was pointing emphatically with his fingers.
All of a sudden his rabidly pointing hand is pulled off screen by Gruden, who yells over Young, “Brett had a QB rating of 107 this year. I think the Vikings are going to want him back.”
Steve Young could not have looked more surprised if Gruden had slapped him in the face. Or said Mrs. Young was a slut. Or called him a bitch. “The Vikings are going to want him back. Bitch.” I’m pretty sure Tom Jackson started giggling.
Gruden is like a frat guy that wandered into a nerd convention for the free beer. He likes what they’ve got going; he just doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. After a fade in from commercial, you see Gruden showing Mel Kiper a picture text that has Kiper falling out of his chair. Gruden is still mic’ed up when he tells Kiper: “…a big ass.” He might as well have a Solo cup in one hand.
The entire first round tonight has been a highlight film of awkward moments amid ESPN’s top NFL analysts. All of them look normal, yet their comments are always insane. Jon Gruden says what everyone at home is thinking, yet he always looks insane.
Tim Tebow was selected in the 1st round when many analysts thought he’d slip into the 2nd or later. The CriesMan is handing out Broncos hats to his entire family, hugging friends, getting his back slapped. Meanwhile on his television, every analyst on ESPN is talking about how bad he sucks. Kiper literally said, “I think Tim is a great guy, but realistically I do not see him being a good NFL quarterback in the short term. Or long term.” Everyone at the round table agreed. Tebow stared at his TV and scratched his chin – not unlike just before his eyes watered the turf of the SEC championship game this year.
Maybe the pick was crazy, but we’re talking about a guy that circumcises non-believers in his free time. Now he’s finally hit the big time, and no one is excited for him. No one but Jonny Gruden. He again yells over whoever is talking: “This is a great pick. [Bronco’s Head Coach] McDaniels wants guys with great integrity, great work ethic, and he just got all that with Tebow.” He then squints at each nerd analyst at the table individually until they hang their heads in shame.
Maybe Gruden is so much better at commentating because he actually spends time with the players. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out his pre-draft drills with Tebow, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen, and Sam Bradford. He dogs each player until they undoubtedly have the pit stains of their lives – and he isn’t even in football anymore! Why should they fear him? The videos make me long for the pre-Kiffin days at UT when his name was linked to the job opening here. (His wife was a cheerleader here. Or had lunch here one time in 1995. I forget which.)
Meanwhile, ESPN still pays Mel Kiper and Tom Jackson’s salary. Kiper’s job is to analyze the draft. The average American analyzes the draft about 20 minutes before it starts. Kiper spends all year on it, and somehow managed to plot out how Ryan Leaf was going to be a better quarterback than Peyton Manning. No one really remembers when or if Tom Jackson ever played NFL ball. He keeps showing up every Sunday though, so they go ahead and let him speak. He yawned deeply tonight during the middle of another Steve Young analysis, as though he wasn’t being broadcast on national television.
Jon Gruden was squinting.