Gruden was greeted by owner Mark Davis on Tuesday with a video of the highlights from his first tenure in Oakland nearly 20 years after he was first introduced as coach as an unproven 34-year-old by late owner Al Davis.
“I feel this is the thing to do, what I want to do,” Gruden said. “This is an organization that I want to be a part of. I’m all in. I only live one time. This is something I feel deeply and strongly about.”
Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998-2001 before being traded to Tampa Bay 16 years ago.
About 50 former Raiders were on hand for the event, including several of Gruden’s former players like Charles Woodson, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Rich Gannon.
Mark Davis said he had been trying to bring Gruden back for six years ever since taking over the franchise following his father’s death and the opportunity was finally right this year. Davis said he first got an inkling Gruden might be ready to return when he met with him during the season when the Raiders spent a week in Florida to talk about how to fix the team. It became even more serious when they met on Christmas Eve before the Raiders played in Philadelphia in a game Gruden worked for ESPN.
That led Davis to decide to cut ties with coach Jack Del Rio as soon as the disappointing six-win season ended and finalize a deal with Gruden.
“Everybody knows I’ve been infatuated with him or whatever to get him here, but they really didn’t know how deep our conversations were going, how far along we were in that to make it happen,” Davis said.
“Somebody asked me, what was harder — to get the 31 votes to move to Las Vegas? Or to get Jon Gruden? And by far to get Jon Gruden was the toughest.”
Gruden returns to the sidelines after nine seasons as an announcer at ESPN. He said he’s eager to take over a team with a promising young quarterback in Derek Carr.
Gruden said he hopes the familiarity with new offensive coordinator Greg Olsen, who had that role in Carr’s rookie season in 2014, will help Carr bounce back after regressing this season from the form that made him an MVP candidate in 2016.
“I think he’s got huge upside,” Gruden said. “With Greg Olsen and the system we will put in place that will demand a lot from him. I think that’s going to unlock the greatness in him. I’m very, very excited to have him as our quarterback.”
Gruden spent four seasons as coach in Oakland from 1998-2001. After leading the Raiders to 8-8 records his first two years, Gruden helped the team reach the AFC title game following the 2000 season and got Oakland back into the playoffs the following season.
His tenure ended shortly after the “Tuck Rule” loss to the New England Patriots when he was traded the following month to Tampa Bay for two first-round draft picks, two second-rounders and $8 million.
“For my career to end that night in New England, it still ticks me off,” Gruden said. “I’m so thrilled to be back here. I hope people understand the emotion inside. I feel there’s unfinished business. I feel a lot of loyalty and responsibility to get the Raiders going again. It’s been a while since the team has consistently performed at a high level.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help this team get right again.”
Gruden beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers but didn’t win another playoff game for Tampa Bay in his final six seasons. He has a 95-81 career record.