INDIANAPOLIS — The first question to Jon Gruden was about PDFs. He was asked about analytics. All the bells and whistles of the modern NFL, if you will — the stuff he has missed out on to a degree in his past eight years as a broadcaster.
But in his first NFL scouting combine appearance as the new Oakland Raiders' head coach, Gruden appeared to want to turn the clock back.
"Are you talking about the analytics? All the modern technology? I am trying to throw the game back to 1998," Gruden said on Wednesday, doing everything but winking when he was done making his point.
Was he kidding? Is this some sort of Luddite act that we're now part of? Or are we really watching the slow thaw of Unfrozen Caveman Coach here in a surprisingly balmy Indy?
As you decide, consider that Gruden used "GPS" as a synonym for analytics in football, which is a bit like comparing a spacecraft to a Keurig.
"There’s a stack of analytical data, or data [pronouncing it DAY-tah], however you want to say that, that people don’t even know how to read it," he said. "They have the data — or data — and they don’t know how to read the damned thing!
"So I am not going to rely on GPSes and all the modern technology. I will have some people that are professional that can help me from that regard. But I still think doing things the old-fashioned way is a good way. We are going to try to lean the needle that way a little bit."
This is what Gruden knows. As he attempts to bring back the Raiders to past glory, he will lean on what he knows — and that's the NFL of yore in which he cut his teeth. Oh sure, traveling around the country on the ESPN circuit these past eight years allowed Gruden a rare, first-hand look at what it takes to build elite programs. And also what doesn't work.
That's invaluable data (or data, however you say it). Will Gruden adapt? Hmm. Maybe?
"Well, you have to," he said, almost as if he didn't want to, also mentioning the experienced, old-school assistant coaches he assembled on staff. "You obviously have to change a little bit. But I think the roots, the foundation of what I know, is going to stay in place.
"We’re going to adapt to what our roster allows us to put out there every week. I think that’s the uncomfortable thing is that I don’t know what that’s going to be."
Gruden then (twice) railed about the "new" Collective Bargaining Agreement — one that was signed while he was a broadcaster, in 2011 — that doesn't allow him to talk to players until April, right before the draft.
"I’ve always complained about that since the new CBA came in place," he said. "A lot of players would come to see me in Tampa to get their football fix.
"It’s very difficult for me. I get emotional about it sometimes."
Gruden wants to use a fullback, which he called a "dying breed." He wants a "blocking tight end" to service Marshawn Lynch as a power runner. This is all stuff of a different time. And who knows? It might work. Teams don't use a lot of these elements much these days.
Of course, Gruden also said he was "enamored with Patrick Mahomes and Texas Tech" and that he loved some of the "really cool plays" Paxton Lynch ran at Memphis. Gruden also plans to "steal some plays" from the offense that Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield and Lincoln Riley ran. So he's not all fearful of change and innovation.
This is a man who watched endless reels of tape (and we might mean actual tape in his case) for almost a decade now. He can chronicle the innovations that have come into play in the NFL in his time watching from the catbird seat. The question now is whether he will bring them into play — the PDFs, GPSes and all that.
Or perhaps a blocking fullback — the throwback — is the future and he's just what this league needs. It's an either-or deal, we assume.