Johnny Majors endorses Gruden without reservations: 'One of the best coaches I've ever had'
KNOXVILLE — Jon Gruden’s name is once again at the forefront of the Tennessee head coaching search.
Gruden’s ties to Tennessee date to 1986 when he launched his coaching career as a graduate assistant under head coach Johnny Majors.
Majors told Saturday Down South that Gruden would be a good fit as Butch Jones’ permanent replacement.
“When I first met him … I was impressed with him and his work habits,” Majors said. “He was always ready to go.
“It was Jon’s first job out of college and he was very impressive from every standpoint. He was neat, he was tough; very intelligent and hard-nosed.”
Majors remembers the current ESPN/Monday Night Football analyst being a strong motivator who carried himself with good humor while still projecting seriousness and confidence — “a healthy mixture.”
- Johnny Majors
Gruden joined Majors’ staff straight out of his college playing career at Dayton, where he was a three-year letterman and backup quarterback and graduated with a communications degree in 1985.
Majors said that Gruden would stay at the football offices “until 2 in the morning working on scouting reports and getting our scout team ready to run what they needed to in practice.
“He was a guy that was dedicated from the very start and tried to be as good as he could be and to be the best,” Majors said. “He did not settle for anything less and was extremely cooperative and forthcoming. When I asked him a question that he did not know, he would tell you he did not know and was straightforward. He was very honest, with great character and leadership qualities.”
Those qualities, not to mention Super Bowl-winning NFL credentials, make Gruden “one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Majors said.
Among his former assistants, Majors puts Gruden right up there with Jackie Sherrill and Jimmy Johnson, a couple of other famous names Majors mentored early in their careers. Majors hired Sherrill to his first full-time job as defensive backs coach at Iowa State in 1968 and Jimmie Johnson as an assistant on the same Cyclones team.
Unlike Johnson, Gruden doesn’t boast a strong pre-NFL college resume. While Johnson won a national title with the Miami Hurricanes before leading the Dallas Cowboys to two NFL crowns, Gruden was last seen in the college game in 1991 as wide receivers coach at Pittsburgh. Before that, he made stops as an offensive assistant at Southeast Missouri State (quarterbacks) and Pacific (tight ends).
No matter, says Majors.
“Good coaches can coach anywhere and at any level,” Majors said. “Gruden has the energy to coach at any level and he could handle being successful in recruiting. There would be no adjustment for him as smart as he is and as determined and dedicated as he is.”
Is Gruden interested? Does AD John Currie consider him a serious candidate?
“Only time will tell,” Majors says.