‘Ten years from now, Jon Gruden will be Jay Gruden’s brother’
Brett Bouchy believes in Jay Gruden. He is convinced the Washington Redskins’ new coach will be a smashing success.
“I’m telling you right now: Everyone thinks of Jay Gruden as Jon Gruden’s brother,” Bouchy said. “Ten years from now, Jon Gruden will be Jay Gruden’s brother.”
Bouchy could fairly be described as a champion of Arena League Football, in both the literal and figurative senses. As an owner, he has won multiple AFL titles, but also is an enthusiastic spokesman for the league. He has been involved with the AFL for most of the last two decades and is now part owner of a new franchise called the LA KISS, which bears the name of the iconic rock band that co-owns it.
In 1997, Bouchy bought the Orlando Predators and was feeling his way around in football, which was new to him. The idea at first was to analyze the organization, top to bottom, do owner things. Then his coach retired and he quickly had to make the biggest football decision there is.
“Coming in as a former investment banker and a former business owner, I had no experience in sports management,” Bouchy said.
What he did have was plenty of experience hiring managers and presidents, and the responsibilities of an AFL coach are similar. They coach the team, of course, but they also make personnel decisions and manage the salary cap.
“I looked at it as hiring CEOs or presidents for my companies,” he said. “You’re looking for that guy that can run and do it all. … You don’t have a staff of 25 people who do football operations.”
And Bouchy has a point he’d like to make about this: 1998 did happen to be the same year Jay’s brother, Jon, was hired to coach the Oakland Raiders after eight years as an NFL assistant. But Bouchy had never heard of Jon Gruden.
“I didn’t know a Gruden from anything,” Bouchy said. “He (Jay) just had it. You just knew. He is a leader. He is a leader of men. He is a general. You just knew.
“Even though he was a young guy at the time, I offered him the job on the spot. He was the only (candidate) who was under contract. We had to pay and trade players to get the rights to him. That’s how highly I thought of him.”
Gruden spent nine years working for Bouchy, and “he took me to five championship games and two championships.”
That’s been a pattern. Gruden’s life in football has been a string of overlooked successes. He played quarterback at Louisville, and remains among the school’s top-five leaders in career passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdowns. He wasn’t drafted by an NFL team and in 1991 joined the AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm. The next year, he won the league MVP award and by 1996 had won four AFL championships.
He retired in 1997 to begin his coaching career as an offensive coordinator for the Nashville Kats.
That set him up to get the gig in Orlando, his first head coaching job. He won two AFL championships there, went to work under his brother for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won a Super Bowl there, went back to the AFL from 2008-10, and took over as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011. The Bengals made the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Cincinnati.
“This guy has been on a winning team for 28 out of 31 seasons,” Bouchy said.
The Redskins’ job is Gruden’s first as a head coach in the NFL, which means Jon Gruden’s little brother has something to prove.
Bouchy says he’s used to that feeling.
“He’ll be out on the field with Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins, he’s 46 years old, and he’ll still think he’s the best quarterback on the field,” Bouchy said. “That’s what makes him so special.”