INDIANAPOLIS — Jon Gruden’s highest compliments Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine were reserved for a player he’s never actually coached.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady received two unprompted shout-outs from the Raiders coach during Gruden’s roughly 14-minute-long news conference.
Asked if a team can win a championship with a passing offense like the ones run by the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, Gruden replied:
“I think you can. The guy in New England can still throw it, too. You’ve got to be able to, I think, run the ball in key situations, run out the clock at the end of the game. You’ve got to be able to convert some third-and-1s, some goal-line situations. You’ve got to set up some play-action passes. Brady proved that — they had the best play-action in all of football.”
Later, Gruden was asked whether “functional mobility” and the ability to throw on the run outside the pocket are absolute necessities for quarterbacks in this age of highly athletic pass rushers.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “The guy that keeps winning the Super Bowls (Brady) isn’t going to win the short shuttle championship. The guy’s just an amazing football player, and he’s proven that you don’t have to get on the edge and run for first downs and attack the perimeter. There’s a lot of ways to get things done. It all depends on the supporting cast and the performance of your team.”
Some other highlights from Gruden’s presser:
— Like anyone who saw the eye-popping photo of draft prospect DK Metcalf that hit social media earlier this month, Gruden is amazed by the Ole Miss wide receiver’s physique.
“Well, you’ve got to be able to tackle, you see,” Gruden said in response to a question about what he looks for in a cornerback prospect. “I think everyone gets enamored with the coverage ability, the length, the speed, all that stuff. You’ve got to be able to tackle these guys in 1-on-1 situations.
“We had a guy walk in our room (Wednesday) night, a receiver out of Ole Miss. His name is Metcalf. He looked like Jim Brown. I mean, he’s the biggest wideout I’ve ever seen. And you’ve got to ask yourself, who’s tackling this guy? If you’re a 179-pound corner and you’re tackling a 235-pound back or a 235-pound wideout or a tight end, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want to do?’ So you’ve got to find guys that can tackle big-time, and I think sometimes, that’s overlooked.”
Metcalf, who’s considered one of the top receivers available in this year’s NFL draft, measured in at 6-foot-3 3/8, 228 pounds.
“We had pictures of him with his shirt off,” Gruden said. “It made me want to get in the weight room last night. This guy’s really put together.”
— Some around the league have expressed a desire to expand instant replay to include penalties like pass interference. That group does not include Gruden, who was on the wrong end of one of the most notable replay decisions of all time.
“I don’t have any interest in expanding replay,” Gruden said. “I have a strong interest in eliminating replay, but that’s for another day.”
— Gruden is high on the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, several of whom he had an opportunity to coach earlier this year at the Senior Bowl.
“The kid from North Carolina State (Ryan Finley) impressed me,” Gruden said. “I think Daniel Jones out of Duke has a huge upside. I think Drew Lock’s got a quick release, accurate passer, a lot of production. (Dwayne) Haskins, we met last night. We met (Kyler) Murray last night. It’s a good class, and if they get in the right system with the right coach, it could be a great class.”
With Brady set to turn 42 in August, the Patriots could be in the market for a QB of the future this spring. NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah said last week he views Finley and Jones as potential fits in New England.
The Raiders also have questions at the position following Derek Carr’s inconsistent 2018 season, but Gruden insisted Carr is “our franchise quarterback.”
Thumbnail photo via Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports Images