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Why Did the NFL Order a Code Red on Jon Gruden?

Ethan Miller. Getty Images.

Like I said when the news first broke about Jon Gruden quitting the Raiders head coaching job after his old emails were leaked, first from 2011 during the lockout when he called NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith “Dumboriss" and said he "has lips the size of michellin tires,” the next from 2018 calling Roger Goodell a “faggot” who pressured Jeff Fisher to draft "queers," there are some hills you just don't die on. 

Even if Gruden didn't do the right thing and commit career Hari Kari, he couldn't go on running an NFL team. How is any owner supposed to walk into a meeting room and tell everyone, "This doesn't interfere with his ability to do his job effectively. Sure, he described the head of your union like something out of a pamphlet from Mississippi in the 1870s. But let's not forget, he won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson!"  As philosopher David Lewis put it, "I do not know how to refute and incredulous stare."

Even if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt because the oldest email is from a decade ago, are you really willing to? Ten years is hardly a generation. The top song 10 years ago was Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory." The highest grossing movie was the final Harry Potter installment. The Vice President was the current President. There's no putting that into historic context like an old joke that wouldn't land today. 

Besides, that Super Bowl he won was almost twice as far back as that oldest email. So there's not a person among us who would risk alienating everyone in their organization by taking bullets for their coach under these circumstances. Even though every single one of us has said things in private communications with people we trust that would make us look awful and probably cost us our careers and reputations if they ever got out - jokes, insults, general shit-talk - Gruden's words did get out. There's no walking them back. 

All of which begs the question, who ordered this Code Red on Gruden? Those emails didn't leak themselves. If you're an adult who's been paying attention to how the world works, then by now you've no doubt noticed the pattern of how private information gets released to the public based entirely on whether it benefits some powerful interest. Big business interests do it. Media companies. The military. Political figures. Leaking info that damages your rivals and simultaneously makes you look good and virtuous, and timing such leaks for maximum effectiveness is a multibillion industry. It's the American Way. You couldn't run elections without dirt coming out on the candidates in the last week or so before the polls open.

And few organizations in the country play the game better than the NFL. Roger Goodell's birth was God's punishment for the sins of mankind, but dammit, you have to admit he's a genius when it comes to manipulating public opinion to suit his needs. How many scandals has he made go away? Often by hiding them behind obvious non-scandals and making them look scandalous. Drug scandals. Child abuse allegations. Domestic violence. How many people still remember how the Giants' Josh Brown's family had to be hidden from him at the Pro Bowl by NFL security because they feared for their lives? The CTE story goes from one of the most talked about issues in American society to a nontroversy in a matter of months. Peyton Manning rewrites the record book after going to Europe for treatments that aren't legal here, we have an employee of a PED lab admitting on a hidden camera Manning was a customer and the story vanishes with one denial. Meanwhile Goodell distracts us with nonsense like Bountygate, Bullygate, and Deflategate, an avalanche of horseshit that buried stories that actually matter.

The point being, if the NFL didn't want these Gruden emails out in the public, they wouldn't be out in the public. If these were written by someone with more juice in the offices at Park Ave, we'd never know about them. In fact, PFT goes a step further and says the release was orchestrated to take Gruden down.

Source - The obvious takeaway … is that the NFL wanted Gruden out, and that the leaks were going to continue until he resigned or was fired. 

The league wasn’t inclined to suspend Gruden. None of the emails released to date were sent when Gruden fell under the NFL’s jurisdiction. Even if he did (more on that below), there’s no specific provision of the Personal Conduct Policy that is directly violated by the contents of private communications. 

Also, the league likely didn’t want to fight Gruden publicly over whether a suspension would have been appropriate. If Gruden had fought back, his lawyers would immediately have delved into the question of how, with more than 650,000 emails unearthed by the Washington Football Team investigation, only the emails Gruden sent to former Washington executive Bruce Allen have been released. …

Then there’s this question — did Gruden ever make fun of Davis? It could be that those emails were being kept under wraps, with the not-so-subtle message to Davis being that, if Gruden stays, those emails will be leaked, too. And those emails, if they exist, surely would embarrass Davis.

So the NFL wanted Gruden out. But they couldn't straight up suspend him without opening up a Pandora's Box of 65,000 emails, some of which would undoubtedly (just based on the law of averages) make other people look bad. Which is to say, people who are better connected. People the league doesn't want to look bad. So they did what they do best, which is leak the stuff that fits their agenda and keep the bad stuff to themselves. And it worked to perfection. 

Why? What's their beef with Gruden? Call me cynical, but I can't be convinced they read his stuff about Smith and the way he described Michael Sam and were shocked, SHOCKED! that someone in their midst would hold such hatred in his heart, and decided something must be done, for the good of the country. 

However, I have no problem believing that Gruden put his name on the hit list by calling Ginger Satan a “faggot” and a “clueless anti football pussy." That was the unpardonable sin. He committed a felony count of Lèse-majesté, an offense against the dignity of the reigning sovereign. And for that, he had to be destroyed, or else Der Kommisar would appear weak. And we can't have that. 

It'll be interesting to see how it plays out from here. Whether Gruden will answer back with whatever dirt he has, or play nice and try to salvage his career somehow, or just walk away and sleep peacefully on a pile of money every night. And it'll be interesting to see how this gets covered by the media. Because one thing that shouldn't be lost on this is that, while he was firing off emails to a Washington football executive with racist tropes in them, he was the number one personality on ESPN. (You might argue Stephen A. Smith, but exponentially more people were watching football on Monday nights in 2011 than Stephen A. rolling his eyes at Skip Bayless on weekday mornings.) I have to assume if an employee of, say, an MLB team was saying this stuff, the World Wide Leader would be all over it. Let's see how it plays out when it's one of their (former) own. 

P.S. Not to make everything about one guy, but follow this story and tell me again why Tom Brady should've handed his phone over to these people in the middle of a witchhunt against him? Not that they would've found anything remotely like this. They most definitely would not have. Hell, his emails got leaked and the "worst" thing in them was him saying he'd play a long time and Manning only had a couple of more years left. Both of which were psychically accurate predictions. The larger point is that you don't give any more information to someone you don't trust than you absolutely have to.