By Ernie Palladino
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Just over an hour after Jon Gruden performed his ESPN analyst duties on Tennessee’s wild card win over Kansas City on Saturday, the Raiders announced him as their new head coach, reportedly for a little bundle of $100 million over 10 years.
They’re taking some shot that Gruden can turn the Raiders into a perennial power just in time for the move to Las Vegas, and it appears they’re paying an all-time record price for him. There’s no guarantee he’ll succeed, of course. But it’s worth the chance, however pricey, to Oakland owner Mark Davis.
That’s what hiring an NFL coach is all about, after all: taking a shot. So it stands to reason that if a particular hoodie aficionado from the north who formerly worked in East Rutherford has grown antsy for a new employee-employer relationship, it only makes sense for the Giants to take a shot at getting him.
Of course, like the Raiders with Gruden, there’s no guarantee that Bill Belichick can ever resurrect John Mara’s squad from this year’s 3-13 wreck. But he probably wouldn’t do any worse than the unexciting list of first-timers and failed retreads they have already interviewed. Honestly, do Belichick’s coordinators, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, send tingles up anyone’s spine? Pat Schurmer, anyone?
But a five-time Super Bowl champion who may well win his sixth by the time this playoff season is done, that’s something to get excited about. And the ESPN article that intimated Belichick could be the loser in a power struggle among himself, quarterback Tom Brady, and owner Robert Kraft has people thinking that maybe Belichick could use a change of scenery.
Hence, the need to take the shot. And heaven knows, after the tumult of this season, Mara owes it to the fan base to take his best shot, even if he ultimately can’t put together a compensation package outrageously rich enough to move Kraft to forego The Hoodie’s final contract season and send him southward.
Then there’s the question of what Mara would pay Belichick. If Gruden got $10 million per year for one Super Bowl and nine years calling Monday Night Football, what might Belichick and all his jewelry be worth?
Keep in mind, too, that the investment might well backfire. Belichick may still have an old quarterback to work with down here, but his name won’t be Brady. And Eli Manning, for all he’s done for the Giants, never was Brady.
As for a new guy like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, or even Davis Webb, well, Belichick may not be quite the quarterback genius everyone thinks he is. If not for Jets linebacker Mo Lewis darned near killing Drew Bledsoe with a thundering sideline hit in Week 2 of 2001, the world might never have heard of Brady.
Bledsoe continued his career in Buffalo and Dallas, the last stop under Bill Parcells, a Hall of Famer Jets owner Leon Hess lured from Kraft in 1997. That didn’t turn into a Super Bowl, but almost did. Credit Hess for taking his best shot.
Sometimes they do work out. Wellington Mara took a shot on Tom Coughlin, Parcells’ wide receivers coach on his 1990 Super Bowl winner. He had franchise-building success in Jacksonville, got fired, and after an idle year came to the Giants and turned his chance into two Super Bowl titles.
Mike Ditka put together a legendary Super Bowl winner in Chicago in 1985 and went 106-62 in his 11 years there. New Orleans took its shot with him in 1997 and he promptly went 15-33 over three seasons.
It doesn’t always work. It could blow up in an owner’s face big-time.
But if an owner goes with the best, at least no one can fault him for trying. Which is why the Giants, if a shot is there to be made, must at least take theirs to bring Belichick back to East Rutherford.
At least explore the possibility. At least try to make the big splash before jumping on another less-exciting choice.
They owe their fans that much.
Take the best shot. It’s what hiring an NFL coach is all about.
Just ask the Raiders.
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