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Day 9: The lighter side of the grouch

NFL writer Jerry McDonald

Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
We interrupt a stream of “grumpy Rich” anecdotes to balance the ledger concerning the demeanor of one Rich Gannon.

True, he could be a little defensive.

In 2003, Gannon asked whether yours truly had been indulging in recreational drug use, wondering whether any crack had been smoked after putting in print that the Raiders ought to consider using Marques Tuiasosopo for a series or two as a change of pace.

It was a difficult time. During one memorable exchange, Gannon bullied a helpless radio reporter into saying, “I think you’re the MVP of the league,” when the reporter tried to ask him about the possibility of the Raiders switching quarterbacks.

In a 31-10 loss to Denver in 2003, Gannon simply melted down when plays weren’t coming in fast enough, raging at coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

It all fit nicely with Gannon’s image as the South Philly cab driver, shouting insults and commands as he made own course.

While that may be true, here are a few more Gannon snapshots:

  • An unsuspecting sports writer (me) is beckoned by Gannon to check out a nutritional supplement. I play along, open the jar, and well… it’s locker room humor. Use your imagination.

    When this story is relayed to backup quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, he says, “He got you too? He got me with the same one in my rookie year.”

  • A rookie offensive lineman receives a phone call in his room at the Napa Marriott during training camp. The voice identifies himself as a reporter, asking several routine questions.

    Unbeknownst to the lineman, Gannon is asking the questions. He suspects nothing out of the ordinary until asked about the size of…again, it’s locker room humor.

  • Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden, wanting to get a message to the rest of his team about being prepared, embellishes a story to an out-of-town reporter who came in to write a Gannon story.

    He says Gannon has been arriving in the morning darkness, angry that he doesn’t have a key to the facility so he can get in and watch film. Gruden says an angry Gannon throws rocks at his window, demanding to be let in.

    A television crew sees it and comes out to document the story. Turns out Gannon indeed wanted to get in early, but never threw so much as a pebble. He can’t find a rock anywhere near a window, and curses Gruden under his breath. Later, as Gannon relates the story, he is laughing about it.

  • Gannon and Peyton Manning are the quarterbacks in the Pro Bowl following the 2000 season. Gruden, who constantly talks up Manning to Gannon, takes it a step further at the Pro Bowl.

    He tells the support staff, comprised of Raiders employees, to stand along the sideline and gawk at Manning. They’re instructed to say, “Oooh,” and “Aaah,” on every Manning pass, and remain silent when Gannon throws.

    Finally, Manning misfires, and Gannon runs to the sideline and says, “What do you think of that throw?”

    The story is put in a weekly Internet diary I was ghost-writing for Gruden in 2001. Gannon thinks it is hilarious. He requests a printed copy.

    Gannon could be a pain to teammates, coaches and the media. In fact, he saw it as part of his job description. But he had another side.

    “Rich is a very sarcastic and intelligent guy,” Gruden said. “He could cut you up with his words but could also make you laugh like hell.”

    Center Adam Treu, who considers Gannon and family to be close friends, agreed. “He was a lot of fun – sometimes at the expense of other teammates,” Treu said. “But what are you going to do? You’ve got to have a thick skin.”

    The Hackett Factor
    Davis and Gruden relied heavily on the advice of Paul Hackett, Gannon’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City, when coming to the decision to pursue their eventual MVP.

    “When Jon was looking for a quarterback, I told him, `This is the guy you want,’ ” Hackett said. “I mean, this is his guy. A guy who is just like he is.”

    Hackett, now Gruden’s quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay, said Gruden and Gannon made each other better.

    “Their ability to work together is one of the great stories in the NFL” Hackett said. “Here was a first-time NFL coach in his 30s, a quarterback in his 30s, and they get the most out of each other. There’s only one person I’ve ever known that prepares more than Rich Gannon. And that happens to be Jon Gruden.”

    Hits And Misses

  • Randy Moss made a spectacular catch in the end zone on a ball which appeared to be thrown too high by Kerry Collins.
  • Teyo Johnson leaped high to try and catch a similar lob from Collins moments later, but failed to come down with the catch. “You’ve got to catch that,” coach Norv Turner said. “That’s a touchdown.”
  • Defensive end/linebacker Grant Irons broke up a pass while playing a good 25 yards into the secondary. Irons is 6-foot-6 and weighs 285 pounds. Irons was later criticized by Turner for failing to wrap up on a tackle attempt of Justin Fargas.
  • Place kicker Sebastian Janikowski made just one of three attempts from 50 yards near the end of practice. He was wide right and then wide left before converting.
  • With Doug Gabriel out with a dislocated finger, John Stone and Chris Carr were the first team kickoff return specialists.
  • Bret Engemann, a quarterback well down the depth chart, was wearing a colored practice jersey and simulating the opposition on the kickoff return team.
  • Family members began arriving at the Napa Marriott Saturday as the Raiders take today off for their annual family day. They practiced only once, and curfew was midnight.
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    Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer