People often say that the NFL is all about wins and losses.
Those people are wrong.
What the NFL is really all about, at least in my experience, is money, and the winning and losing are simply a major part of that equation. It is, after all, pro football.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Oakland Raiders hiring former coach Jon Gruden among all kinds of pomp and circumstance at a press conference on Tuesday.
Gruden mentioned repeatedly at the press conference how much he loves football, and anyone who has ever met him or listened to him call a game can tell that's obviously the case. But that's not the biggest reason he came back. Sure, the chance to win, love of the game, etc., were all part of it, but the primary difference between this opportunity and all the others that he's had over the years is the contract that Raiders owner Mark Davis gave him, which is a reported 10-year, $100 million deal.
Even if there is some skepticism regarding how much of the contract is fully guaranteed, the fact that coaches' contracts are typically guaranteed leads you to assume at least a large percentage of the deal is rock-solid, making it an unheard-of contract for a football coach. And it's for a coach who sat out the past nine seasons and was below .500 over his last six seasons combined as head coach in Tampa after leading the Bucs to their only Super Bowl title in his first year in 2002.
That's why everything about this feels like it is more about business than ball. Davis knows after a disappointing season that it would be hard to sell tickets, sponsorships, etc., the next two seasons to a jilted fan base in Oakland. He also knows that it is very important that the Raiders have momentum and buzz before moving to their new digs in Las Vegas is 2020. There will be luxury boxes, club seats and sponsorships to sell, and no coach has been more sought after or more visible, given Gruden's role on Monday Night Football for much of the past decade.
I don't doubt that Davis believes Gruden will be good for the Raiders' $25-million-per-year quarterback, Derek Carr, or that he can help the team win. It's just hard to imagine that was the primary motivation for Davis when you consider Gruden's time away from the game and most recent sample size on the sidelines.
It certainly feels much more likely, given the unprecedented contract to Gruden and even the extremely rare reported four-year deals handed out to solid but not spectacular coordinators Greg Olson and Paul Guenther, that the primary impetus was a financial one.
That's not to say it was a bad hire. Given the excitement once the reports began to come out in Week 17 and the buzz leading up to Tuesday's press conference, the initial impact has been pretty much what Davis was looking for. That includes him being able to step to the microphone in front of a room full of Hall of Fame Raiders and call the occasion a "big effing deal."
As for phase two, the move to Las Vegas, will Gruden's presence really have that much of an impact in 2020? Unless the team is highly successful the next two seasons, it's hard to imagine the Gruden name being enough to sell the Raiders the way Davis clearly hopes to in Vegas. With an ever-decreasing attention span among fans and a what-have-you-done-lately mentality, the glean from Gruden could be long gone before the Las Vegas Raiders ever take the field.
The Gruden hire was all about the money for everybody involved, and that's totally fine. The question is, will Davis get the return on that investment he's looking for in Vegas?
The only way the buzz will last all the way to Vegas will be if the Raiders under Gruden can win football games and not just press conferences.