Report: Jon Gruden present for QB Derek Carr’s early work with Saints

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Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden was among a handful of guests watching the New Orleans Saints’ voluntary practices this week.

A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Gruden’s presence during the Saints’ first week of voluntary practices with new quarterback Derek Carr, who posted some of the best passing numbers of his career in Gruden-engineered offenses. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because the club did not publicly disclose the names of the non-Saints coaches who attended the practice.

There were also several active college coaches, the person said.

Gruden last coached in 2021, sitting out five games into that season following the leaks of emails in which he criticized people, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, with homophobic and misogynistic terms.

The Saints have had three training sessions this week. Only the first of them, on Tuesday, was open to the media.

Gruden’s visit was first reported by the Times-Picayune.

NFL teams routinely invite members of the coaching profession at various levels to observe offseason practices and training camp, and to meet with members of the Saints’ coaching staff. Most of these visits are in the name of professional development. Sometimes hosts also ask for feedback from certain guests.

It remains to be seen whether the 59-year-old Gruden, who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl triumph in 2002, will try to return to work in the NFL.

He has a long relationship with the Saints, whose former coach Sean Payton began his NFL career working with Gruden on Ray Rhodes’ Philadelphia Eagles staff in 1997.

When Payton coached the Saints from 2006 to 2021, he ran a version of the West Coast offense that bore some similarities to Gruden’s schemes. The Saints offense is now overseen by coordinator Pete Carmichael, an offensive assistant throughout Payton’s tenure with New Orleans.

Carmichael took over in 2022 after Payton, now coaching the Denver Broncos, began a one-year retirement.

Carr has eclipsed 4,000 yards in a season four times, all in consecutive seasons from 2018 to 2021. Gruden, whose first head coaching job was with the Raiders from 1998 to 2001, was re-hired by the club in 2018. Although Gruden left during the 2021 season, the club’s offense remained the one he designed and installed until the Raiders hired current coach Josh McDaniels in 2022.

Report from The Associated Press.

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