To many, Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all time, based primarily on the work he did for the San Francisco 49ers.
But it should never be forgotten that Rice had a slew of productive years for the Oakland Raiders as well.
And while his time in Oakland only overlapped with John Gruden for the 2001 season, it was apparently enough to make quite an impression on Rice.
Gruden, after 10 away from coaching, officially returned to the NFL’s head coaching ranks this week.
Inking a 10-year, $100-million deal with the Raiders, it seems like Gruden will be coaching in silver and black for the foreseeable future.
In other words, the Raiders players had better get used to Gruden’s manic intensity in practice and on the sidelines.
Rice knows firsthand just how intense Gruden can be. The legendary receiver issued an ominous warning to the young players on the Raiders.
“He can be your best friend or your worst enemy,” Rice said, per ESPN.
Rice also acknowledged, however, that Gruden’s intensity could be just the thing the Raiders need after a disappointing season that saw the team go 6-10 after going 12-4 in 2016.
“[Coach Gruden is] going to keep you on your toes. And maybe that was something that the players were lacking this year,” Rice said.
Gruden’s personality and mannerisms have been so intense that they earned him the nickname “Chucky,” after the evil doll from the horror movie “Child’s Play.”
“I hope these players are ready because they’re going to get Chucky. They’re going to get him … Chucky’s going to come out,” Rice said.
Rice, 55, also compared Gruden to Hall of Fame 49ers coach Bill Walsh, citing his ability to motivate.
“Either you buy in, or you’re not going to be a part of it,” Rice said.
With a slew of talented young stars such as Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph, as well as one of the most expensive offensive lines in football, Gruden will be able to look for help at middle linebacker or cornerback come draft time.
Former NFL standout Charles Woodson, who was Gruden’s first draft pick in 1998, echoes Rice’s sentiments.
“Yeah, he’s coming for them, man,” Woodson said.
“That’s what they’ll have to be ready for,” he added. “They’re young and impressionable, and Gruden will bring the best out of them. And if you don’t respond, you’ve got to go. You’re all-in or nothing.”
Woodson also said the players had better get prepared to handle Gruden’s aura and presence as much as anything else.
“I think the one thing that will probably take them by surprise is the star-like quality that Gruden has and the relationship that he had with the fan base when he was here,” Woodson said. “They haven’t seen that. So he’ll be the most popular guy on the sideline. It won’t be Derek Carr. It won’t be Khalil Mack. It’s going to be Jon Gruden.”
It will still be several months before Gruden is stomping up and down the sidelines again.
But one thing is perfectly clear: There are going to be enormous expectations for the Raiders players and the new old head coach in the coming year.
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