Former Washington coach Jay Gruden said it was “brutal” to see his brother Jon resign as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in a local radio interview Tuesday, speaking for the first time publicly since his older sibling stepped down.
On Monday, Jon Gruden resigned from the Raiders following the publication of emails that contained homophobic and derogatory language toward Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and others. The emails were unearthed as part of the NFL’s previous investigation into Washington’s workplaces — with the messages being sent to former Redskins president Bruce Allen.
Jay Gruden defended his brother’s character, saying he’s been “an incredible influence” in football.
“We understand what’s at stake when you take the job, that things aren’t private when you think they’re private,” Jay Gruden said. “At the end of the day, like I said before, he loves the NFL. He’s very passionate about the NFL. He’s done so many great things for so many kinds of people in the National Football League. Coaches, players, front office people he’s helped along the way. … For this to bring him down, so to speak, is unfortunate.
“It’s brutal. From a brother standpoint … he’s been nothing but supportive of me.”
Jay Gruden credited Jon for helping him advance in the NFL, noting he wouldn’t have become the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals or the Redskins coach without his support. Jay Gruden said Jon “never meant to hurt anyone” and would “bounce back.”
“In this time, we’re going to stay together and get through this,” he said.
Jay Gruden was asked if Jon’s comments were indicative of a larger problem within the NFL. Jon Gruden was caught using homophobic language over his emails, referring to Goodell as a gay slur and blaming the commissioner for pressuring the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to 2014 seventh-rounder Michael Sam — the NFL’s first openly gay draft prospect.
“I wouldn’t say it’s commonplace,” Jay Gruden said. “I don’t know. People in their own personal circles talk their own personal way in front of their own groups that you think are private. You may say some stuff to a good buddy of yours that you’ve known for a long time that you wouldn’t say to anybody else in the world.
“On the golf course, I might say a few things that I might never say to anybody else. That’s just the way it is. Like I said, he’s a great person, a great human.”
The conversation then shifted to the NFL’s investigation into Washington’s workplace. The league released a summary of findings in July, fining the team $10 million for having a “very toxic” culture. More than 40 women said they were sexually harassed while working for the team and more than 150 people were interviewed.
Jay Gruden, however, revealed that he was not questioned by lead investigator Beth Wilkinson, a prominent District-based attorney.
“I wasn’t even asked,” Jay Gruden said. “I don’t even know really what the heck is going on. Once I was let go out of there, I was just let go. I just kind of backed away quietly.”
Washington fired Jay Gruden two years ago in October 2019 after five-plus seasons. He led them to the playoffs once in that span and posted a 35-49-1 record. The team was 0-5 when Gruden was fired.
Since then, Jay Gruden spent last year as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive coordinator. But he’s been out of the NFL since the end of the 2020 season as the team sacked its coaching staff after the year.
Jay Gruden was asked if he was worried that his brother’s comments might prevent him from getting another job in the league.
“That could be a concern, yes,” he said. “But you just try to do the best you can and get in front of some people and interview. If you get the opportunity, great. If not, I’ve had a great run. But I’mma still keep trying to grind at it and get that opportunity. … We’ll see. I can’t control that.”