Read Do You Love Football?! Online

Authors: Jon Gruden,Vic Carucci

Tags: #Autobiography, #Sport, #Done, #Non Fiction

Do You Love Football?!

Winning with Heart, Passion, and Not Much Sleep Do You Love Football?!

Jon Gruden With Vic Carucci

To Mom, for helping me find my passion. To Dad, for showing me the way. To Cindy, for making tremendous sacrifices as a wife and mother that allow me to do this job. To Deuce, Michael, and Jayson, for constantly reminding me of what is truly important in life. To Jay and Jim, for providing all of the inspiration and support that a brother could ever want. To all of the coaches and players it has been my great privilege to work with and compete against, and to all of those coaches and players out there I haven't met yet. I know you love football! -J.G.

To Rhonda, Kristen, and Lindsay. I know this is another dedication, for another book, but you are a one-of-a-kind family. I can't tell you enough how much I love you and how blessed I am to have you in my life. -V.C.

CONTENTS

ONE - "Do You Love Football? "

TWO - Doing It the Knight Way

THREE - Notre Dame, Dan Devine, and the Best and Worst of Witnessing Greatness from the Inside

FOUR - If You Can 't Throw the Perfect Pass, Draw the Perfect Circle

FIVE - Whether You 're Cutting Film or Cutting a Rug, You Can 't Volunteer Too Much for Knowledge

SIX - Finding Harvard in San Francisco

SEVEN - When Opportunity Calls, You Answer on the First Ring

EIGHT - "Boy Wonder or Boy Blunder? "

NINE - If the Head Coaching Jacket Fits, Wear It

TEN - Who 's Chucky?

ELEVEN - Changing Teams Doesn’t 't Mean Changing Expectations

TWELVE - Validation

Acknowledgments

About the Authors

ONE
"Do You Love Football?"
Well, do you? You love football? You do, don't you?
You love it! You know you love it!

-D AVE A DOLPH,- linebackers coach, Oakland Raiders

AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER, I've lived and died on every game day. I don't think I can ever recall a time when football-in one form or another-didn't have a major influence on everything I thought, everything I said, everything I did.

High school. College. Pro. Our family was moving around with each coaching job my dad held at all three levels. Or I was playing quarterback in high school. Or I was hoping to see the field as a college quarterback. Or I was changing coaching jobs myself in a never-ending quest for knowledge and improvement.

Football really is all I know. Other than going to the beach once in a while and watching the waves, it's really the only interest I have outside of my wife and our three boys. I'm not a scratch golfer. I don't know how to bowl. I can't read the stock market. Hell, I have a hard time remembering my wife's cell phone number. But I can call, "Flip Right Double X Jet 36 Counter Naked Waggle at 7 X Quarter" in my sleep.

I love the competition of the game. I love the players who play it. I love the strategy, the variables. I love the smell of the grass, the sound of the stadium. I love the thrill of victory. I like to see how we respond to the adversity that a loss brings and to the sudden changes that we have to deal with, whether it's a fumble, an interception, a fifteen-yard penalty, or something worse, like our right tackle suffering a broken ankle. What's the weather going to be like? What kind of crowd will we have?

Football is the ultimate team game. There are just so many people who play a role. There are trainers, managers, coaches, players, fans, media. It's just so exciting. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see it at such close range for so long.

The game day experience is what really gets me juiced. I'm up at 3:17 A.M. most days, and that includes the morning of a game. Home or away, we stay at a hotel the night before, and I'm always waiting for the newspaper guy to make his delivery to my room at five-thirty. At breakfast I'm waiting for the eggs to come out, even though I don't eat very much. If we're on the road I'm waiting for the first bus to the stadium to arrive at the hotel (for home games I usually catch a ride with Bill Muir, our offensive coordinator and line coach).

Once I'm at the stadium I sit at my locker and for the next three, four or five hours before kickoff I go over my sideline sheet, which contains the offensive game plan, minus the diagrams. We probably carry about 125 passes and maybe 30 runs into each game, but the typeface on the sideline sheet has been reduced small enough so that they all fit on both sides of an eight-and-a-half-by-eighteen-inch piece of paper that I laminate and can refer to while I'm calling the plays from the sideline.

I have columns for different situations-first-and-ten, first-and-fifteen, second-and-one-to-five, second-and-six-to-nine, second-and-ten-plus, third-and-short (one to three yards), third-and-medium (four to six yards), third-and-long (seven to ten yards), third-and-extra (beyond ten yards)-and the calls I can make in each of them. I have columns for different spots on the field, such as the "red zone," which I break down into plus-five, plus ten, plus-fifteen and plus-twenty, with five or ten runs and passes in each. I have columns for goal line, short yardage, play passes, nickel passes, nickel runs, nickel blitzes, Cover Nine (our term for two-deep zone). I might even have a Keyshawn Johnson column, and at some point I'll look down at it and say, "I've got to get him involved. I've got to get him going." Okay, okay, I've got to get him the damn ball.

I prioritize the calls that I've gone over with the staff and the quarterbacks the night before the game, but when I get to the stadium I say to myself, Okay, what if I use number one? What if I use number two? Do I really like number three? What if they start playing a lot of Cover Nine? Do I have enough Cover Nine throws in the game plan? I'll make notes to myself on the sideline sheet, which also has the first names and numbers of each of the officials (just in case I have any reason to have a nice chat with them during the game) and the names of three of the most important people in my life-my sons, Deuce, Michael and Jayson. I'm usually feeling pretty guilty late in the week when I'm at the office working on the game plan instead of being home with those guys and my wife, Cindy. Seeing their names helps me to maintain a little sense of balance when I need it the most, such as in the middle of a game when the running battle between your head and your heart can easily tilt you too much in one direction or another.

I take different colored Sharpie fine-point pens-red, blue, green and black-and use certain colors to highlight sections of the sideline sheet and to write notes. Using these colors is the only thing I'm superstitious about. I'll say, "Ah, the green pen's in a slump; I'm getting it out of here. I'm using black and red this week." If we kick somebody's ass, if we play a really good game, I'll say, "I'm going to stay with red for the next couple of games. Red's hot." It's silly, I know, but you don't want to mess with the mojo.

The sideline sheet is everything to me. We have our first fifteen plays scripted-as most teams have been doing ever since Bill Walsh, the godfather of offensive football, had so much success doing it-because you always want to have that beginning point for your offense. You need that preview of exactly how you intend to attack your opponent, but I also love to think about situations that are going to come up along the way. I just know Derrick Brooks is going to scoop a fumble or he's going to intercept a pass or he's going to do both. We are going to generate turnovers, and when we get a sudden change in our favor, the crowd's going crazy, the offense is running out there and we're first-and-ten at midfield. What do you call? When Brian Kelly intercepts a pass and runs it down to the two-yard line, what do you call? Do you go right to your goal-line column or do you go to your plus-five passes?

The sideline sheet represents a week of hard work. I like knowing that we have a heck of a plan, that we've worked it all week and that on top of that we have contingency plans that are well thought out before the game so that we don't have to make eighteen different adjustments at halftime. We have Plan C if Plan B goes awry. If Plan C doesn't work, Plan D isn't a bad way to go, either. And if Plan E is necessary, by God, I've got that, too. The sideline sheet is my crutch, my all-in-one tool, my security blanket.

After I'm done reviewing the sideline sheet, I greet the players as they come in the locker room. Quite often I will ask guys the same question that I pose practically every day of the week: "Do you love football?"

By week ten, week eleven, these guys start to get the long eyes and it becomes tough to get them up for practice on Wednesday and Thursday. So when I spot one of them in the hall, instead of just saying hello or nodding my head, I'll get kind of a crazy look on my face and ask, "Do you like football?

Do you? Do you love football? Do you love it? You do, don't you? You love football, don't you? I know you love football."

It's my way of reminding them that the only reason you're playing football or coaching football is because you have a love for it, and that passion is a powerful force that can carry you through any obstacle that gets in your way. Don't get totally bent out of shape with what the writers are saying or what the pressures of the game bring. We're playing and coaching because we love the game, man. How the hell else can you explain putting on shoulder pads and cranking into a Crowther blocking sled or diving for a catch and landing on the ground twice a day during the hottest month of the year in training camp? How the hell else do you work like we work as players and coaches unless you love it?

The origin of my "Do you love football?" question goes back to 1998, after the very first game of my very first season as a head coach. My debut with the Oakland Raiders, on Sunday Night Football, was ugly. U-G-L-Y. Kansas City kicked our asses 28-8 in Arrowhead. Sacked us ten times. Made for one of the longest and most humiliating nights of my life. We flew back to Oakland that night, landing at about four in the morning. I slept on the floor of our facility, as did the rest of the coaches. I woke up a few hours later and got a cup of coffee. As I sat in my office, feeling like a total moron at 0-1, Dave Adolph, our linebackers coach, walked in. It was pretty obvious I was in need of some sort of morale boost. I think Dave, who was about sixty years old at the time and had seen a whole lot more football than I had, was checking to make sure that I wasn't packing my stuff and getting ready to head out the door for good.

"You like football?" he said in a loud, raspy voice, knowing full well that at that point I was hating football, myself and the day I signed that first contract to become a head coach. I looked at Dave and smiled, probably for the first time since we had boarded our flight to Kansas City two days earlier.

"Well, do you?" Dave asked again. "You love football? You do, don't you? You love it! You know you love it!"

I nodded. Dave was absolutely right. I loved the game enough to understand that as horrible as I felt, I was ready to come back for more, ready to put it all on the line the following week against our next opponent. As ugly as that game had been, I was going to experience others that were just as ugly, if not uglier.

But I will keep coming back for more-every day, every practice, every game, every season-until I don't have a team to coach.

Another favorite part of my pregame routine is going out to see the stadium, just to get a feel for the environment we're going to play in. I walk around the field, check out the stands.

I'm just taking it all in with my eyes, my ears, my nose. Little by little, step by step, I get myself worked up into the excitement of game day.

There's nothing like going into a locker room after a big win, or walking off the field after winning on the road-after taking one from their fans and their friends and their families-and then getting on a plane and enjoying a three-hour flight home.

All of a sudden you don't mind feeling sore and tired. There's validation, there's justification, there's worth. The investment paid off. Winning and enjoying it with others are the two greatest feelings in this business. You work your butt off all year, around the clock, to try to find a way to beat this team on this day, regardless of what time the game is or where it is.

To help a player succeed is different from being the player on the field having the success, but it's certainly just as satisfying. I know because I've been on both ends of it. I know how hard it is to play this game because I wasn't a very good player myself.

Probably the most disappointing thing in my life is that I never amounted to anything but a ham-and-eggs backup quarterback for a Division III college. But there's tremendous satisfaction from being involved in determining the structure of practice, in putting together the game plan, in picking the right plays to call and, finally, in the outcome of it all. I look at my role as a coach the same way I look at being a teacher, like my mother was, helping a student to get an A. The student got the A, but he needed the teacher's help to get it.

Sometimes losing teaches you a lot more about yourself and your team than you ever learn from winning. It's easy to be a winner. It's easy to react positively when things go well. Normally, when you lose it's because "You didn't throw the ball to this guy enough . . . This guy wasn't involved enough . . . We had too many injuries." In other words, there are just too many excuses, too many ways to shift blame. Which is natural, because after all we're human and there are emotions in this business that you have to deal with. But that's when you've got to rely on leaders. You've got to rely on the head coach, assistant coaches and key players to help you through that time. It isn't easy. Believe me, it isn't easy.

But you will battle through it. Sometimes you'll start the year off with a heartbreaking overtime loss-and five months later have it end in the Super Bowl. That's how it went for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, my first as their head coach.

There I was on September 8, 2002, in Raymond James Stadium watching a botched punt in OT become an intercepted pass in our end zone to hand the New Orleans Saints a 26-20 victory in my official debut with the Buccaneers. And there I was on January 26, 2003, standing on a platform in the middle of Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, celebrating our 48-21 victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

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