After years of rumor and innuendo, Jon Gruden has finally left ESPN and returned to the coaching ranks with the Oakland Raiders. While much of the attention in the wake of Gruden’s big money move away from Bristol has been placed on what ESPN is going to do to replace Chucky in the Monday Night Football booth, Gruden’s absence will be felt elsewhere too.
Nowhere will that be more prominent than in the show that took its name from the former coach, Gruden’s QB Camp. The show was synonymous with Gruden as he met with the various top quarterbacking prospects for each year’s draft.
Not only has Gruden’s QB Camp produced some excellent meme-worthy content over the years (Spider 2 Y Banana, anyone?), but it’s also filled a ton of time across ESPN’s family of networks and has been valuable content to help promote the draft. It was also arguably Gruden at his best, diving deep into playbooks and X’s and O’s with young quarterbacks and bringing viewers a different side of the game.
In an interview with the Mercury News, Gruden said he’s closed up shop at the FFCA (Fired Football Coaches Association) which would lead one to believe that means it’s curtains for the QB Camp.
Q: You went back to Florida for a bit . . . did you close the Fired Football Coaches of America offices?
Gruden: I had to go back to Florida for a few days to say good bye to my friends. I had to move a lot of my equipment here. I have a lot of film, a lot of notebooks, a lot of information that was in the FFCA headquarters that I had to get moved to California and I had to close down the doors. It was painful.
But does that really have to be the case?
Looking ahead to this year’s draft, it would seem like there would be no better year for the QB Camp concept to thrive. The race for the #1 pick and the next franchise savior for the Cleveland Browns is wide open with a number of top quarterbacks in the discussion. Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Sam Darnold can all make a legit claim at this point to be the top prospect taken overall.
Beneath those signal callers is another intriguing group including Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, and others.
It would be a shame for ESPN to miss out on this opportunity all together, so why not rethink the QB Camp concept so that they can keep churning out the content but in way that moves on from the Gruden Era and into a new one.
Why not sit the quarterbacks down with Randy Moss and Charles Woodson and let them pick their brains as a former All Pro wide receiver and defensive back? That could be some really unique and compelling television that falls out of the traditional coach-quarterback relationship we see so much. Let Moss and Woodson talk through how each quarterback would get a receiver open or look off a deep safety.
If ESPN wants to keep the QB theme going, why not bring both Hasselbecks together to work with the college quarterbacks? Have them sit down with the QBs individually or as a group and talk through their strengths and weaknesses and how their skill set translates to the next level.
Gruden’s QB Camp was a great concept that turned into one of the highlights of pre-draft season. It may not have the same personality attached to it, but ESPN should do something to keep the idea going so that they can still keep hardcore draftniks engage while we wait for the first pick to be announced.