ALAMEDA — Sitting on the dais at the front of the Oakland Raiders’ sprawling weight room, which, for a day, had been transformed into the Jon Gruden Welcome Center, Mark Davis was finally living the dream he’d been chasing for some six years.
As AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” played in the background, Gruden emerged from behind the stage and the Raiders owner dropped his opening lines.
“Raider Nation, this is a big f’ing deal,” Davis declared.
“Please welcome the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Mr. Jon Gruden.”
In a room filled with team staffers, reporters, an entire seating section of Raiders luminaries, and Gruden’s three sons and wife — no one was soaking up the scene more than Davis.
“It is the biggest day of my life right now to have him here to run this organization and be the leader of this organization on the field,” Davis said. “It’s going to be phenomenal.”
The details surrounding Gruden’s long-rumored but hastily devised return remain nebulous. Gruden wouldn’t disclose when the discussions precisely began, but said the line of communication has always been open.
“Mark came to me a few weeks ago and asked me if I — a couple weeks ago,” Gruden said, stopping to adjust his timeline, “and asked me if I had any intentions of coaching and with the support of my family, I said, ‘Yes I do.’ It’s a mysterious way that it all came together but here I am. I really don’t have a solid explanation other than that.”
The money was right for the former Monday Night Football star. Neither Gruden nor Davis would shed much light when pressed about the reported $100 million figure over 10 years.
“I don’t have a guarantee to be alive for 10 years,” Gruden cracked.
First the jokes then the newsworthy information.
“Mark has told me that we’re not getting ownership in the team,” Gruden said. “So, I’m happy to report that today.”
And then the puzzling.
“But I don’t really know the terms,” Gruden insisted. “All I really know is this year I’m going to be coaching in Oakland and next year I’m going to be coaching in Oakland and I want to help deliver the best football team we can for the people here in Oakland.”
Davis, widely reported to be one of the NFL’s most cash-strapped owners, bristled at the idea he’d over extended himself.
“A huge commitment by whom?” Davis said.
Money is no object, Davis reiterated.
“I’ve felt, as I said, for six years, that Jon Gruden is the person I wanted to lead this team,” Davis said. “And to me, the money really doesn’t realty come into play here at all. It never really came up in our conversation.”
There will be plenty of conversations between the Raiders’ new odd couple. Gruden joked that after years of 3 a.m. phone calls from Al Davis, now it’s the son’s turn.
“This place, this man right here has a lot to do with why I’m here today,” Gruden. “The timing is right. It really doesn’t have anything to do with the contract. I just want to be part of the Raiders again. I want to finish my coaching career as an Oakland Raider and I can’t wait to get started.”