Jon Gruden popping into the Saints’ facility last week got the attention of plenty of folks—mostly because he’s been off the radar since resigning in Vegas, but the idea behind it made all the sense in the world. New Orleans actually had plans to bring Gruden in earlier in the offseason, with the purpose of discussing how the former Raiders coach built an offense for Derek Carr and just talking football in general.
It was first going to be in April, but Saints coach Dennis Allen told Gruden he really wanted to be a part of these meetings, and draft meetings during that time would make it impossible. Then, it was going to be earlier this month, before Gruden had to postpone for family reasons.
So it happened last week. Gruden arrived in Louisiana late Tuesday. GM Mickey Loomis took him and Allen out to dinner that night at the Four Seasons in the French Quarter, and then Gruden came to practice Wednesday and Thursday. After practice Thursday, the group dove in on Carr, with Gruden spending five and a half hours with Allen, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichae and the offensive coaches. The quarterbacks popped in when then could, and the discussion flowed easy.
“In Jon, we have a resource here that is football through and through,” Allen told me over the phone Saturday. “And he’s had an opportunity to work with Derek Carr. “So what better [way to use that] resource than to just get some thoughts and ideas on how he worked with Derek and what he thought worked well with Derek?”
By all accounts, the time spent was worthwhile. Gruden had what seemed like thousands of ideas, and a lot of those dovetailed with what the Saints do offensively—remember, Sean Payton was Gruden’s quarterbacks coach when Gruden was Eagles OC in 1997, so the bones of the offense Payton built in New Orleans with Carmichael are familiar to Gruden.
Still, the next morning, Allen went in and reminded Carmichael that he wanted the Saints’ offense to remain the Saints’ offense. What Gruden could give New Orleans in tweaking it was a feel for what he thought Carr was best at, which could help inform Carmichael on what to emphasize within it and how to best call it on game day to make Carr comfortable.
And for what it’s worth, the difference Carr’s made in the building this offseason has been palpable. The hope is the level of expectation, in the locker room, will rise as a result.