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Super Bowl Week? No. It’s Gruden Week, Baby

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 01: Head coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders celebrates a victory as he walks off the field following the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 01, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is playing out just as we hoped: with teams not playing in the Super Bowl proving to be more interesting by far than the ones who are. As it should be.

And while Satan’s Fortnight might have seemed to have peaked early with the Matthew Stafford trade, the glorious and stealthily insane Las Vegas Raiders are now moving toward center stage with not one but two entertaining howlers operating separately. And if we want all the Super Bowl pregame buildup to be eliminated, as we should, both these things should drag out and then happen Saturday, thus blowing up the Hall of Fame announcement as well.

Yes, this is just news cycle fatigue, where we keep hoping stories will pop up to diminish this game between two overly familiar quarterbacks and two coaches whose favorite comedian is Jack Benny. But hey, COVID-19 is still out there and we need alternate stim to keep us from eating the pets.

Anyway, the one we know for sure is Jon Gruden aggressively tampering with Richard Sherman during an interview with Cris Collinsworth, and Collinsworth trying desperately to talk him back down. It might well be the NFL’s homage to Tuesday’s brilliant performance art piece of the Newsmax talking head trying to get the MyPillow dope to shut his cakehole about fake election fraud and keep the right-wing news outlet from being sued into oblivion. At least, we hope it was.

Gruden is shamelessly pitching Sherman to sign with Vegas in the Collinsworth interview, and Collinsworth is desperately trying to get Gruden to stop doing that very thing. The exchange follows a question in which Collinsworth asks about new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who worked with Sherman in Seattle.

Collinsworth: “I know there’s tampering rules out there and I don’t want to bring up anything that might create a problem for you, because I know that you’ve been fined a few shekels over the years.”

Gruden: “Yes I have. I’ve been fined, I’ve been punished very, very harshly. Richard Sherman, if you are a free agent, which there is a rumor you are, we are looking for an alpha presence in our secondary. Somebody that could play this Hawk 3-press technique with the read step. If you’re available and interested, maybe you and I can get together at some point off air.”

Collinsworth silently mouthing to producer (I presume): “I tried.”

This is either Gruden trying to channel his inner Al Davis, or will his way into a universe in which rules do not exist, or trying to do that I’m so off-the-peg-wacky show biz-thing he does when he’s not busy avoiding the playoffs. Or maybe it’s Gruden literally knowing none of the rules a head of football operations should know on day one. I hope it’s all of these things because Conniving Gruden, Narcissist Gruden, and Unhinged Gruden are part of the rich tapestry of the NFL, the part of the museum in which the people laying on the slick production values can barely keep up with the brain-bubbled lunatics they are promoting.

The other part of Raiders Gone Wild Week is a fresh rumor about the team working the phones to see if someone wants Derek Carr as part of a three-team deal in which Vegas ends up with Deshaun Watson. Understand here that football rumors can be started by an octopus in a tank with 32 media guide covers covered in larval crabs, so there is no way of knowing if this one actually exists until Mike Florio puts out successive frothy posts on the subject. For the moment, there’s just been one, based on this Vincent Bonsignore story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal specuguessing a way in which this could happen, maybe on Krypton.

I want this to become a real conversation, especially if they end up dragging the San Francisco 49ers into the discussion, because no quarterback has been traded more often by more people with less power to actual do so than Jimmy Garoppolo. See? Now I’ve done a rumor, too. That’s how easy it in Zoom Football America, in which all the in-house news is produced like hostage videos and interviews “from the scene” are restricted to maskless boneheads on the street trying to get the virus as a Super Bowl souvenir to pass along to the grandkids. Frankly, I want every quarterback in the NFL save the two still working to be connected to trade rumors made up by cooped-up medioid nitwits, and as a reward for Gruden’s groundbreaking work on the subject, I want them all to involve the Raiders. Gruden will talk about anything to anyone because at his deepest level he is as much a football mind as he is a rogue parrot with Tourette’s syndrome.

In some ways, this might become the perfect Alternate Super Bowl Week. We just have to flood the zone with quarterback and related rumors to obliterate the diabetic paeans to the two quarterbacks which have already been beaten into a flat gray paste through breathless repetition by asthmatic metronomes. Jon Gruden is doing us all a solid, maybe two if Bonsignore’s report has actual legs attached to it, and all we have to do is remember that he won Tampa’s only other Super Bowl and think of him as he once was … a successful football coach who didn’t mind throwing a middle finger up to the boss, rather than as the less successful boss he eventually became.