Share this article

print logo

Bengals will test the reputation of Jay Gruden as the nicer brother

Jay Gruden has his older brother's voice, and their eyes have the same steely glint. Jay is bigger, has darker hair and more of a twisted smile than a sinister "Chucky" grimace.

"Jon's more edgy, grouchier too. Meaner," said the younger Gruden, new offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. "I'm a nice guy. I'm more laid back. His tolerance level isn't as high as mine, and mine's pretty low."

Case in point: During an offensive meeting this week, one of the Bengals had the nerve to chomp on a mouthful of ice as Gruden was making a point. The coach asked him to kindly knock it off.

"Jon probably would have kicked him out," said Jay, 44, four years younger than his famous brother. "See? I'm nicer."

Jon doesn't dispute that, but points out his little brother isn't low-key.

"He's fiery as hell when the lights go on and [the] time is right," Jon said. "He's very confident and prepared. But he's probably got more control of his emotions than I do. I've always been a little irritable. I remember a girl was chewing gum and popping bubbles during the SAT test and I almost had a nervous breakdown."

There's a good chance Jay's patience will be tested by the Bengals this season. He might have the toughest assignment of this season's huge crop of new coordinators (19 of 32 teams have made at least one coordinator switch).

Quarterback Carson Palmer is gone. So are receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. All this for a franchise that has had just two winning seasons in the past 20. Not only that, but there was no offseason to get rookie quarterback Andy Dalton up to speed.

That hasn't diminished Jay's enthusiasm for the challenge ahead.

"It's not like we don't have anything here," he said. "These guys are legitimate weapons, and these guys are legitimate players.

"Yes, it will be a challenge with whoever's on offense, and I don't think we can use any excuses. There's no excuse for us not to be great because we have great people here."

Jay Gruden's football experience is vast, even though his only previous NFL gig was as an offensive assistant to Jon in Tampa Bay from 2002 to '08. Jay threw for more than 7,000 yards as Louisville's quarterback from 1985 to '88, and later was a highly decorated player, then a player/coach, in the Arena Football League. For the past two years, he was a head coach in the fledgling United Football League.

"I never tried to kick any doors open by interviewing," said Gruden, hired to replace Bob Bratkowski, who was fired. "I never had to do a resume. I've always been content where I'm at."

He started to get nervous as he saw how much the UFL was spending on its players, travel and accommodations -- far too much for a league that wasn't attracting fans, TV deals or sponsors.

"I thought, 'Now, who is footing this bill?' " Gruden said. "I loved the UFL. It was a great experience. But I had to make a decision: Do I stay with this or look for a new job?"

Now, he's following the path of his brother, who was Philadelphia's offensive coordinator before Oakland gave him his first head coaching job in 1998. Jon has moved on, and is enjoying being an analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

The Bengals don't have a Monday game, so Jon won't be in the potentially uncomfortable spot of critiquing his brother's offense.

To an extent, the Bengals wound up getting two Grudens for the price of one. Jay has Jon on speed dial, and the two talk or text at least a few times a week. Jay doesn't hesitate asking for advice.

"If I had a question about offense, or what to do with a blitz, red zone, whatever, he'd be the first guy I'd call," he said. "And probably the only guy."

There are no comments - be the first to comment