That close friendship between Andy Reid and Jon Gruden could be tested, sooner or later.
Gruden, now the coach of the Raiders, recently did a victory lap regarding the team’s signing of former Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.
“Last time I was here in Oakland, we stole [quarterback] Rich Gannon from Kansas City, we took [receiver] Andre Rison from the Chiefs, we took [defensive back] Albert Lewis from the Chiefs,” Gruden said in a conference call with Raiders season-ticket holders, via Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star. “We love stealing from the Chiefs. So now we’ve got Derrick Johnson, and I’m on my way to the Raiders store to pick up a Derrick Johnson Raiders jersey. I’m going to wear it home tonight.”
Of course, the Chiefs didn’t exactly “steal” Johnson from the Chiefs. The Chiefs cut Johnson, and the Raiders signed him after an extended stretch on the open market. But those facts won’t get the fan base properly riled up, will they?
“Well, we feel like we have solidified the middle of our defense big time,” Gruden said. “We added Derrick Johnson, the all-time leading tackler in Kansas City Chief history. He started every game for them last year, they were the division champions.”
It’s surely just huffing and puffing, a little Gruden being Gruden. It’s one of the reasons why the NFL is better when he’s in it.
That’s ultimately why none of this will undermine the fact that Gruden and Reid are and have been close, for years. If their relationship didn’t trump team loyalty, there’s no way Reid would have let Gruden anywhere close to practice or production meetings in advance of Gruden’s final game at ESPN, a Titans-Chiefs postseason contest played at a time when everyone (most specifically Gruden’s former on-air partner Sean McDonough) knew that Gruden had a deal in place to coach the Raiders.