Last year, after being “traded” to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by the Oakland Raiders, Jon Gruden became, at 39, the youngest head coach to ever win a Super Bowl Championship. Driven by a never-ending quest to learn and achieve, the NFL’s hottest coach has now written a book about that championship season and his career to this point. The book is titled, “Do You Love Football?! Winning with Heart, Passion and Not Much Sleep,” and it gives readers field-level access to the heart, passion, and principles that have carried him on the wild ride to the top of his profession. Gruden discusses the book on “Today.” Here's an excerpt:
“DO YOU LOVE FOOTBALL?”
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 foregoing is excerpted from “Do You Love Football?!” by Jon Gruden and Vic Carucci. Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.