A month ago, NFL on Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira let the world know his feelings on ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden. Pereira tweeted that he turned the mute button on whenever Gruden was speaking. For last week's Monday night game in New Orleans, Pereira must have had Gruden briefly unmuted. The popular rules czar launched into a blistering rant against Chuckie in a Fox Sports column Thursday night over comments made by Gruden Monday night. Here's Pereira dropping the gloves, even using an ESPN staple to launch his opening salvo...
I’m talking to ESPN announcer and former coach Jon Gruden, because I need to set the record straight.
I am not a fan of Gruden’s. Not today, not yesterday, not when I worked for the NFL and not when I was working on the field as a side judge. He was a loudmouth as a coach who constantly disrespected officials and he is a blowhard in the broadcast booth who spouts off when he doesn’t know what he is talking about.
I respect his knowledge about the X’s and O’s when it comes to coaching and playing the game of football, but I have very little respect for him when it comes to officiating and his knowledge of the rules.
The sinister side of me loves high profile media figures being unafraid to call out one another and willing to play the feud. Given Pereira's comments and his previous sentiments regarding Gruden, there must be some heated past history between Gruden and Pereira from Pereira's days as an official himself and as the NFL's VP of Officiating. However, as he is with most replay reviews and rules questions, Pereira is right on the money with his article. The crux of Pereira's attack on Gruden was two hits by defensive players in the second quarter.
The first was by Atlanta's Curtis Lofton for a helmet to helmet hit on Saints receiver Marques Colston.
Even though Lofton's hit was clearly helmet to helmet, Gruden didn't believe a flag should be thrown. Perhaps he was thrown off by the "defenseless receiver language" from referee Jeff Triplette, but that's still no excuse for Gruden. Colston is hit helmet to helmet right as he comes down from the air. As Pereira explains, it is an obvious flag. In fairness, Ron Jaworski also criticizes the call by the officials. To tell the truth though, how many NFL announcers (and fans) actually know the rules regarding defenseless receivers and what is and isn't a penalty? That's why Pereira has been such a valuable asset for Fox to explain these decisions. But it's our second clip that shows where Gruden and the rest of the ESPN booth is out of bounds...
The second hit was by New Orleans' Malcom Jenkins on Falcons receiver Reggie Kelly. Jenkins comes from behind and hits Kelly in the back as he catches the ball.
Amazingly, Gruden wanted another penalty for Jenkins making a textbook tackle. Mike Tirico and Jaworski seem to be in agreement with Chuckie too! I don't know about you, but I've never seen a flag thrown for a receiver being hit in the back with a shoulder. Watching the game in real time, I thought it was a bizarre comment to make over two distinctly different plays. Pereira wasn't shy in attacking Gruden for being clueless about the rules for hits on receivers:
Gruden didn’t know the difference between the two hits. Well, let me help. Lofton’s was helmet-to-helmet, while Jenkins’ hit was shoulder to back. Duh!
Lofton’s hit was clearly a foul and the hit by Jenkins was not. That was why Lofton’s penalty was 15 yards and the Jenkins hit wasn’t penalized at all. Gruden said he doesn’t understand how games are being officiated? Correctly and consistently in this case. But that’s OK, Jon. Just throw the officials under the bus when you don’t know the rules. Officials are often criticized and sometimes, deservedly so.
Not in this case, however. It is Gruden who deserves the criticism.
I enjoy that feature done by ESPN’s studio hosts. Let’s see if they have the courage this week to shout “C’mon man, learn the rules’’ to Jon Gruden.
That is stinging criticism from Pereira. As Gruden ends his third year in the Monday Night Football booth, it has to be said his time at ESPN has been very hit or miss. There are times when Gruden sounds like the best analyst in the sport. His work at the NFL Draft and on Gruden's QB Camp have been superb. There are times when his X's and O's analysis is also amongst the best. But like any susceptible defense, there are plenty of holes in Gruden's announcing game. "This guy" was a nice running gag, but Gruden now refuses to say it! His love for every breathing soul playing in the league is a major complaint amongst media critics and fans alike. Gruden has been a popular target in our Twitter timeline and the Dickies throughout the year. And then, there are spells like Monday night where it seems like Tony Kornheiser was more plugged in to the game.
I still believe Gruden has the potential to be one of the best analysts on television because of the energy he brings to a game and his ability to relate his coaching knowledge. But, if Gruden does indeed leave Monday Night Football to go back into coaching next year, his tenure at ESPN may be an even bigger disappointment than Urban Meyer's.