The Saints tapped into a disgraced source to get some help on integrating Derek Carr into the offense: former Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
The New Orleans Saints and Derek Carr are about to begin a new era together, and unfortunately, the Saints franchise has brought along another person for the ride.
As reported by ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, the Saints invited ex-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden to their offseason practices. Gruden was spotted working with the team’s offensive coaches and quarterbacks during last week’s OTAs, and it’s pretty clear NOLA wants Gruden to help Derek Carr thrive in his new offensive scheme.
Gruden coached Carr from 2018 to 2021; the former Raiders coach resigned in 2021 after a bombshell reported revealed racist, misogynistic, and homophobic language in Gruden’s emails. He’s been out of the league ever since, though it seems New Orleans are giving him a shot at redemption. Why? Because the Saints need to do well this season, and they don’t have a lot of other options.
It’s a win-win: Gruden gets to show his face again in the NFL, and NOLA gets to pick his brain about how best to utilize Carr in their new regime.
Saints head coach Dennis Allen said this about Gruden’s visit:
"“Obviously, Jon’s a guy that has a lot of experience with Derek and Derek has had his most success under Jon Gruden. And so, we felt like bringing him in, having a chance to sit down and visit with him as an offensive staff, with the quarterbacks and just getting some new thoughts and ideas of things we might be able to implement.”"
Saints working with Jon Gruden to maximize Derek Carr’s strengths
A knee-jerk reaction to the team collaborating with Gruden might be one of disgust given Gruden’s recent history, but from a tactical standpoint, it makes all too much sense.
Carr played some of his best football under Gruden, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 13,811 yards and 75 touchdowns against 31 interceptions. Also, Gruden has some familiarity with the blueprints of the Saints’ offensive playbook. Back in 1997 when Gruden was the Eagles offensive coordinator, former Saints coach Sean Payton worked under him as the quarterbacks coach.
Payton would go on to install a winning offense in New Orleans and become the franchise’s most successful coach of all-time. Many of Payton’s influences can still be found in the Saints’ offensive scheme a year into the woeful Dennis Allen era, and even if Gruden has just a faint connection to Payton, it’s a connection nonetheless.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer also wrote about Gruden helping out the Saints and emphasized that Allen still wanted the team’s offense to remain. Per Breer’s conversation with Allen, all Gruden was expected to do was offer “a feel for what he thought Carr was best at,” in turn aiding Saints OC Pete Carmichael to call the right plays when game day arrives.
So far, it doesn’t seem like the Saints are facing any backlash against Gruden internally. The organization is focused on helping Derek Carr succeed in 2023, and they’ll achieve that goal by any means necessary.