Jon Gruden can be labeled in many ways.
At 39, he was the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl.
He coached in the NFL for 18 years (from 1990-2008, minus the ’91 season as Pitt’s wide receivers coach), including three seasons as offensive coordinator of the Eagles and 11 as head coach of the Raiders and Buccaneers.
Currently, Gruden is color analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
He also would be president of the Nathan Peterman fan club, if the former Pitt quarterback would allow such a thing to exist. (Peterman doesn’t even read his press clippings.)
When I visited Gruden and Peterman in Kissimmee, Fla., for the taping of ESPN’S “Gruden QB Camp” earlier this month, the former coach was very clear: Peterman has a future in the NFL. “Somebody is making a mistake not drafting you,” Gruden told him.
The show will have its first airing on ESPN2 at 10 a.m. Saturday, with nine re-airings before the draft begins next Thursday night.
Wednesday, on a conference call with reporters, Gruden was asked several questions about Peterman, who is expected to be among the first six quarterback selected.
Gruden, who will analyze the first round as it occurs for ESPN, was asked which of the quarterback prospects he would choose if he returned to coaching this season. (You have to love the ex-coaches – they aren’t afraid of the hypothetical questions. Current coaches hate them.)
“I like the kid at Pitt, honestly, if I had to go out there and strap it on,” Gruden said. “He’d allow us to do almost anything in the game plan. He throws the ball pretty darn good. He’s athletic and very, very sharp. A lot like (the Cincinnati Bengals’) Andy Dalton. I’d probably go with Peterman if I had to play him in a few months.
“His passing mechanics, his whole demeanor. He’s buttoned up all the way. He’s sharp. I think he’s going to be a really good pro quarterback.”
Peterman, a five-year collegian and a guy with two degrees, might have an edge by the time he arrives in a training camp because of his experience.
“Several of those underclassmen (quarterbacks) are a year away,” Gruden said. “(Peterman) can memorize. He can execute any play you dream up and he loves it. I’m smitten with him a little bit as a player.”
Gruden said Peterman would fit well with any team, although he mentioned the Chiefs and Saints, specifically.
“You can cater your offense for Peterman. He can handle an extensive amount of football. The teams that are really ambitious with deep, thick playbooks, those are the teams that Peterman would fit in with.
“I hope he gets with one of those guys who can really stretch him and challenge him.”
Gruden also wasn’t shy with his opinions on other NFL topics:
Here’s a sampling:
On whether free agent quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have a future in the NFL:
“They lit the league on fire a couple years ago with the kind of quarterback play that hadn’t been seen before, a running quarterback, option quarterback. They really haven’t progressed. They have taken too many hits and too many sacks. For that reason, they haven’t found a team yet.
“I have no idea where those two fit. They both still have a lot of talent, but their style of play is different than what people are looking for, obviously.”
On whether Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon’s history of domestic abuse will impact the way the Raiders will look at him:
“Based on my history with the Raiders, I would say he would not be on their board,” he said.
On Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs:
“I would love to get my hands on him. He, to me, is a great sleeper in this draft. He stood out, along with (California’s) Davis Webb, in the Senior Bowl. as a guy who can make a quick transition.
“He’s smart, he’ll be a quick study. His athleticism will be hard to keep off the field. This guy has the heart of a champion. Hopefully, someone with a real creative mind gets him.”
Gruden, who said he never drafted a quarterback in the first round as a head coach, was asked how many will go in this year’s opening round:
“Three or four,” he said. “Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech) and Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina).” He also mentioned DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame).
“Who knows? It could be Peterman.”
On Trubisky, who left school early:
“I would have liked to see him stay, but he’s talented. He did get results. He did have some really good moments, bringing them back to beat Pitt. He is a mystery to a lot of people. It’s going to be very interesting to see how high he goes.”
On drafting Kizer in the first round: “He’s very sharp, well-spoken, charismatic in a lot of ways. He had a genuine, sincere, honest nature about him. Strength of his arm is impressive. Would I use a first-round pick on him? Probably not. There are some things he is still rough around the edges. He’s athletic, tough and has a cannon for an arm.”
Of Watson’s 32 interceptions:
Gruden said: “I challenged him to slow it down and isolate the 32 INTs and see which ones you can eliminate. There are some correctable things he needs to take out of his game.
“His body of work impressed me the most, back-to-back national championship games. He plays his best football when they are behind and all the chips are on the table.”
On Temple linebacker Haason Reddick: “Reddick reminds me of Hugh Green. This guy can run and smash you. Just get him on your team, tell him what to do and he’ll do it real well. God knows what he would do on special teams. He’d be a special teams demon.”
On Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams and his ability to win the 50-50 jump balls: “He’s not playing 50-50. He’s playing 80-20. When it’s up in the air, he’s getting it.”
On taking risks with players with question marks: “Sometimes, you get into the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, that’s the time to take some risks. I personally like the idea of taking on some risks in the draft and counting on my locker room, my coaches, my support staff. If you have the right locker room, coaches and support staff, they can help turn these kids around. Nobody is incapable of changing.”
On the importance of speed in the NFL and a prospect’s 40-yard dash time: “Speed is the one thing you can’t coach. When you’re talking about 4.25 speed (such as Washington wide receiver Joe Ross clocked at the combine), that’s hard to coach that. You have to have speed. It strikes fear in the defense. Everybody goes to the Combine with their stopwatch for a reason.”
On Washington Redskins wide receiver and Jeannette native Terrelle Pryor, who worked with Gruden coming out of Ohio State:
“I really was intrigued with Terrelle Pryor. Probably one of the most interesting athletes I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with how he moved around, how sharp he was and how much he loved it. He’s a freak. I really have not seen many athletes come through my doors like Terrelle Pryor. Maybe he’ll play quarterback. Who knows? (laughs).”
On what might happen if Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis will be available for the Lions to draft at No. 21:
“If he is there for the Lions, I would assume (quarterback) Matt Stafford would make a few phone calls to try to get that transaction done.”