Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden was among a handful of invited guests who observed New Orleans Saints voluntary offseason practices this week.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed Gruden’s presence during the Saints’ first week of voluntary practices with new quarterback Derek Carr, who posted some of his best career passing numbers in Gruden-designed offenses. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because the club did not publicly disclose the names of non-Saints coaches who attended practices.
Several active college coaches also were there, the person said.
Gruden last coached in 2021, resigning five games into that season following the leaks of emails in which he criticized people — including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — with homophobic and misogynistic terms.
The Saints held three practices this week. Only the first of those — on Tuesday — was open to media.
The Times-Picayune first reported Gruden’s visit.
NFL teams routinely invite members of the coaching profession at various levels to observe offseason practices and training camp, and to meet with members of the Saints coaching staff. Most such visits are in the name of professional development. Sometimes the hosts seek feedback from certain guests as well.
It remains to be seen whether the 59-year-old Gruden, who coached the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl triumph, will try to work in the NFL again.
He has longstanding relationships with the Saints, whose former coach, Sean Payton, began his NFL career working with Gruden on Ray Rhodes’ Philadelphia Eagles staff in 1997.
When Payton coached the Saints from 2006 through 2021, he ran a version of the West Coast offense that contained some similarities to Gruden’s schemes. The Saints offense now is overseen by coordinator Pete Carmichael, an offensive assistant during Payton’s entire stint with New Orleans.
Carmichael took over in 2022 after Payton — now coaching the Denver Broncos — began a one-year retirement.
Carr has eclipsed 4,000 yards passing in a season four times – all in consecutive seasons from 2018 to 2021. Gruden, whose first head coaching job came with the Raiders from 1998 through 2001, was rehired by the club in 2018. Although Gruden left during the 2021 season, the club’s offense remained the one he designed and installed until the Raiders hired current coach Josh McDaniels in 2022.
Reporting by The Associated Press.