What else is in the trove of documents that brought down Jon Gruden?
Jon Gruden is no longer the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, which is what he deserves. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times got wind of Gruden's flair for dragging his knuckles via a series of emails, and there was no way for Gruden to squint and grin until the subject shifted back to preparing for the Denver Broncos. He can eat all the game tape he wants; he'll just have to do it on his own time.
This is not a case of judging someone for some offhanded stuff he said privately a long time ago. Gruden revealed that he's a garden-variety boomer dinosaur who's comfortable expressing abusive language with his pals to virtue-signal his lack of virtue. But there was a longstanding pattern to his behavior that lasted at least until 2018, or right around the time the Raiders re-hired him. He also got caught, and he got caught because one of his pals happened to be a team executive who was dim enough to fling around all that casual racism, homophobia, and misogyny from his work account.
That subtext is important, and it requires some unpacking. The Gruden emails only surfaced because they were material to the NFL's investigation into the Washington Football Team's workplace culture under team owner Dan Snyder - a culture that was especially toxic for female employees. But who else was involved? How high does it go? What else is there? The league ripped off Gruden's head and jammed it onto a pike where it belongs - but it also hopes you'll stop paying attention to wherever else this sordid story might lead. There's a reason Gruden felt so comfortable emailing that kind of idiocy to a team executive.
Remember: The league hasn't provided any details from its investigation of Snyder and Washington, though it frequently shares that information when players are accused of misconduct. Snyder walked away with a $10-million fine and an agreement that his wife will run the franchise for an indeterminate stretch while he focuses on extorting local government officials into making taxpayers foot the bill for the team's next stadium project. He probably reacted to this non-punishment by using another $10 million to light a cigar.
But one of the (many) major allegations against Washington involved creating lewd videos of team cheerleaders that were recorded without the cheerleaders' consent, reportedly at Snyder's behest. And one of the individuals who exchanged many of the relevant emails with Gruden was Bruce Allen, a former Washington general manager who later became team president before he was fired after the 2019 season. According to The New York Times' Ken Belson and Katherine Rosman, emails sent between Gruden, Allen, and others "included photos of women wearing only bikini bottoms, including one photo of two Washington team cheerleaders." So it seems that at least some of those lewd images made their way to Gruden. And Allen, the Times added, was using his work account.
Why this matters: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell instructed league executives to review more than 650,000 emails, The Wall Street Journal's Andrew Beaton reported, after its investigation of the Washington franchise uncovered "the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope" of that probe. Goodell received a summary of that review last week, including the Gruden emails.
The NFL has made a big show of its vast investigative apparatus in recent years. An inquiry spearheaded by a corporate attorney with ties to the league concluded it was "more probable than not" that Tom Brady was "generally aware" that too much air pressure had been removed from a few footballs before a playoff game the New England Patriots wound up winning by 38 points. That finding was included in an exhaustive, 243-page report that was made public - a report that formed the basis for Brady's four-game suspension. Likewise, the league released its work from other deep dives into player misconduct that ended with serious punishments.
Yet the league's investigation into Snyder and the Washington Football Team didn't produce any report for public consumption. In fact, the allegedly independent investigator who ran the inquiry was originally hired by Snyder after The New York Times and Washington Post published multiple stories about numerous women's miserable experiences working for the Washington Football Team. The NFL swiftly admitted that the investigator, Beth Wilkinson, never produced a written report and didn't turn over any notes she might have taken. The league's press release announcing Snyder's "punishment" made damn sure the world knew Wilkinson interviewed "more than 150 people," but she didn't provide any recordings either.
The NFL's personal conduct policy applies equally to owners and players, at the commissioner's discretion. That's how it's written, at least. In this case, the subtext is the text: Jon Gruden rightfully got what's coming to him, but he's also something of a human shield. The league knows what it found when it looked into Dan Snyder. There's a reason it’s trying to keep those findings a secret. Sharing them might reveal too much about the behavior the NFL's power brokers are willing to tolerate.
Dom Cosentino is a senior features writer at theScore.