Jon Gruden may be one of the most recognizable NFL personality that ESPN currently employs. As a coach, he employed offensive system complete with what could only have been a three thousand page dictionary. He was also seen as one of the great young, fearsome coaches in the league. To top it all off, he was known affectionately as “Chucky” due to the resemblance he had with doll from Child’s Play movies.
In an interview with Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, ESPN president John Skipper responded to a question about why ESPN moved to a two-man booth for Monday Night Football, saying, “Jaws [Ron Jaworski] is great. What we are mostly trying to do is we want to ride Gruden. Gruden is a star. You have seen his QB show. He has a lot of personality. He has a lot to say. There was some concern that he and Jaws sounded a little bit the same in the booth. We just thought it would help viewers sort of understand who was there. Our sense is we ride Mr. Gruden a little bit. I think he can be a big star.”
While I do like a lot of what Gruden has to say, especially in his pre-draft QB camp, he is not a great live broadcaster. Too often he winds up talking about how great mediocre players really are. If you sit down and listen to him, you’d believe that every team in the NFL is on the brink of winning a Super Bowl. It’s just not great work on his part, and it’s not where he’s valuable to ESPN. Still, the move to eliminate Ron Jaworski (Jaws) from the booth was probably the right direction to move. As it stood, Jaws was too much like Gruden, but he lacked the star power Gruden commanded. In that regard, I agree with Skipper.
Possibly the best reason for removing Jaws and hanging onto Gruden came in last seasons New England, Miami Monday Night matchup when Jaws dropped the word “shit” on live television. Still it was a comical moment for most of us.