Do you remember Jon Gruden’s cheerleading for Johnny Manziel during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft?  Chucky has a certain affection for his quarterbacks, especially those he works with personally on his QB Camp specials.  But his open pleading with nearly every NFL team to draft Johnny Football bordered on the obsessive.  Here’s what we wrote the morning after Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft back in May…

Gruden’s love of quarterbacks is well known, but he took it to unforeseen levels on Thursday night with Johnny Football.  As the first round went on, it reached the point of comic relief.  From Pick #1 all the way to Pick #22 Jon Gruden acted like he was getting paid per Johnny Manziel mention.  It actually made me think the two had some sort of secret financial arrangement we didn’t know about.  Gruden actually said this while the Bucs were on the clock at #7:

“If they pick Johnny Football, I might have to reapply for my season tickets. I would love to see my hometown Bucs take Johnny Football, we need a kid like this to bring juice back to our organization.”

Rarely has an analyst ever politicked for one player like that before.  One would think that Gruden was texting teams underneath the broadcast table to get them to pick Johnny Football while simultaneously begging them to do so on the air.

Turns out… that might have been the case.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that Gruden actually contacted the Oakland Raiders to try to get them to draft Manziel.  And that the Raiders job is the one he would come back to the NFL and leave Monday Night Football for…

The Raiders picked Khalil Mack at #5 in the 2014 NFL Draft and grabbed their QB in Round 2 by selecting Derek Carr at pick #36.  By saying that Gruden was lobbying the Raiders throughout the first round, one might assume that Gruden was trying to get Oakland to trade back into Round 1 to draft Manziel after they passed on him at pick #5.

This report opens up a ton of questions for Gruden and for ESPN.

It’s one thing for an analyst to have an opinion and cover a sport objectively, it’s quite another for that analyst to actively try and have an influence over what happens.  To think that Gruden was trying to analyze the draft while trying to get one of his former teams to pick his favorite player is truly astounding.

It’s foolish to think this doesn’t happen to some degree given the connections that exist between former coaches and players working in television and their relationships that exist in the league.  However, there’s a big difference between friendly advice saying “hey, I think you should do this” versus a feverish, dedicated effort to try and make something happen.  Furthermore, how could Gruden effectively and fairly cover the draft if he was so caught up with trying to set up an arranged marriage between Manziel and the Raiders?

Jon Gruden had an obvious infatuation with Johnny Manziel on draft night, but if this is the true extent of it, then it calls into question his objectivity as an analyst.  If he really wants to coach the Raiders and trade the team’s next three years of draft picks for Manziel that badly, then he should just go ahead and do it.

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