Members of Raider Nation waited outside team headquarters in Alameda early Tuesday morning, one arriving as early at 5:30 a.m., ready to greet their new head coach and members of the media.
After 10 years away from coaching, Jon Gruden is making his return to Oakland.
His introduction turned out to be a star-studded event with more than 100 credentialed media from across the country and dozens of former Raiders players filling the seats in the team's new performance center.
The event opened with a video montage celebrating Gruden's first tenure as the Raiders head coach from 1998-2001. "Remember that voice? Recognize that face?" the video asked the crowd before team owner Mark Davis addressed the crowd.
"Raider Nation... This is a big effing deal," said Davis as the crowd laughed. Then the words many have been waiting to hear: "please welcome the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Mr. Jon Gruden."
Several longtime Bay Area media members said the event was unlike anything they had ever seen before. From the crowd, to the setting, to the lunch served for players, personnel and media alike. With Raiders legends such as Charles Woodson, Jerry Rice, Jim Plunkett and Howie Long among the former players in attendance, the fanfare for Gruden's arrival seemed long-anticipated.
"I was surprised he wanted to come back and coach again but I can't think of a better team than the Oakland Raiders," said Rice.
"He's got people fired up, he's going to bring in some people to make this turn around successful. I firmly believe that," Plunkett said of Gruden. "He works hard, he's a student of the game and I think he's going to make this a better franchise."
Woodson, who not only played for Gruden but also worked with him as part of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcasting crew, even got a question in during the introduction.
"All of us just want to know is there a no-trade clause in your deal?" Woodson asked as the crowd erupted in laughter.
Gruden went on to tell the alumni in the room that he will need their help to tap into the potential of his new players.
Neither Gruden nor Davis would go into detail about the coach's contract but he did confirm he will not have an ownership stake in the team. Gruden spoke passionately about his love for the city of Oakland and how he's hoping to deliver two memorable seasons for the fans before the team makes the move to Las Vegas.
"The timing is right, it really doesn't have anything to do with the contract," Gruden said toward the end of the news conference. "I just really want to be a part of the Raiders again and I want to finish my coaching career as an Oakland Raider."
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