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Ranking QB seasons under Jon Gruden

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Who were the best and worst quarterbacks under Gruden in Oakland and Tampa Bay?

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders

Jon Gruden has been an NFL head coach for 13 seasons and much of his failures and successes, like any football coach, is determined by the play of the quarterback. I ranked all 13 of those seasons based on QB play, beginning with weakest and ending with the best.

Here is that article.

1998 Oakland Raiders - Donald Hollas, Jeff George, Wade Wilson

Coming out of a 4-12 season with Joe Bugel as head coach, the Raiders retained former number one overall pick Jeff George after he posted 29 touchdowns, nine picks, and led the NFL with 3,917 yards in 1997. But George was not well-suited for Gruden’s offense and over seven starts, threw four touchdowns and five picks. The team turned to Donald Hollas, who had made two career starts and the most recent was in 1992. He threw 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions over 12 games. In his final start, Hollas went 12-of-31 and threw six interceptions against the Miami Dolphins. Making the final three starts was 39-year-old Wade Wilson, who had made one start in the previous four years and hadn’t won a game since 1993. Wilson was okay, throwing seven touchdowns and four interceptions, closing out his career.

Thus began a stretch of Gruden being very successful with QBs, but first, some of the other less-than-glowing seasons.

2006 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms, Tim Rattay

Chris Simms didn’t play well in 2005, but the Bucs made the playoffs and he was the Week 1 starter the following season. Simms threw three interceptions in Week 1, three interceptions in Week 2, and his career was virtually over after Week 3. Gruden turned to sixth round rookie Bruce Gradkowski, and he had two touchdowns, no picks in his first start. Tampa won their next two games but eventually the grapes got sour. Gradkowski threw eight interceptions in a four-game stretch and was benched for Tim Rattay during a horrible start against the Chicago Bears. Rattay threw three touchdowns in that game and started the final two, going 1-1.

2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese

Gruden’s final season with the Bucs. He had brought back Jeff Garcia, a Pro Bowler a season earlier, but the magic had completely gone dry. He was injured in Week 1 and the team turned to Brian Griese, one of Gruden’s QBs from 2004-2005, but he also had back-to-back three interception games under Gruden. Garcia returned but neither QB really had much left to say in the NFL after the 2008 season. En total, the QBs completed 63.2% of their attempts for 3,788 yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a rating of 83.8.

2005 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Chris Simms, Brian Griese

This team went 11-5.

A third rounder in 2003, Simms didn’t do much of anything during his debut in 2004 but a torn ACL for starter Brian Griese opened the door. Griese threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions over six starts as the Bucs opened 5-1 thanks to a very strong defensive performance. Simms threw two interceptions in each of his first two starts (both losses), but pulled out a 36-35 win over Washington with three touchdowns and no picks to end the pain. Temporarily. Over his next five starts, Simms only threw one interception but he also only managed one touchdown as the team averaged 10 points per contest during one four-game stretch.

In a 17-10 postseason loss to Washington, Simms went 25-of-38 for 198 yards and two interceptions. At one point in the fourth quarter, after Simms had failed to complete a 4th-and-1 deep in Washington territory two drives earlier, and had gone 3-and-out one drive earlier, Tampa Bay’s offense got the ball back when Brian Kelly intercepted Mark Brunell at the Washington 35. After Cadillac Williams gained five yards on first down, Simms threw an incomplete pass on second down. Then he had a false start penalty. Then two more incomplete passes. The Bucs defense held Washington again, but Simms threw an interception on the first play of the final drive.

This team went 11-5.

2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brad Johnson

One season after he earned the never-ending reputation of being “the luckiest QB alive,” Brad Johnson became more than just a game manager. At least, in the eyes of Gruden. Johnson threw an NFL-leading 570 pass attempts but this was clearly not “his team.” It belonged to the defense and unfortunately for them, the Bucs went 0-5 when Johnson threw multiple interceptions that season. Overall, Johnson threw 21 interceptions against 26 touchdowns.

2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jeff Garcia

Garcia threw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions, making the Pro Bowl, in what could be described as a “perfectly OK season.” The Bucs made the postseason and Garcia threw two interceptions in a 24-14 loss to the New York Giants.

2018 Oakland Raiders - Derek Carr

Though Carr posted career-highs in completion percentage and yards per attempt, it was also more of a “perfectly OK season” and we would find out in 2019 that he could do even better.

2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brian Griese, Brad Johnson, Chris Simms

You see, he had a legendary dad ...

Brian Griese was a third round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1998, winning a Super Bowl as the backup to John Elway. He attempted to transition into being the next Elway, but you know how that worked out probably. After five seasons in Denver and one with the Miami Dolphins, Griese was recruited to compete with a struggling Brad Johnson and an unproven Chris Simms in 2004.

Coming off of his 21-interception season, Johnson was benched during the fourth game, which would go on to be their fourth loss of an 0-4 start. The first next man up was Simms, but then the team opened with a decent 4-3 record with Griese as the starter until he ultimately lost his final three starts.

All told, Griese threw 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while Johnson had three and three, Simms had one and three. Compared to where they were two seasons earlier, the turnovers were far too high for them to remain competitive.

2019 Oakland Raiders - Derek Carr

All things considered, Carr was pretty good last season. Maybe a little bit better than just OK. He posted career-highs in completion percentage and yards per attempt and the next step will be seeing if they can increase scoring production without significantly increasing turnovers.

1999 Oakland Raiders - Rich Gannon

Both Johnson and Rich Gannon started their careers with the Minnesota Vikings. Both came in as unheralded prospects who worked their way into being starters. Both played for Dennis Green. Both found their way out of Minnesota too. But before Johnson won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Gannon found a home with Gruden in Oakland in 1999.

The same year as the Greatest Show on Turf, the Raiders offense began an era of note as well thanks to the free agent addition of Gannon, who had started 19 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in the previous three seasons. In that 19 game sample, Gannon had 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 81.8.

At the midway point in 1999, Gannon’s numbers weren’t good. He had completed 57% of his passes with eight touchdowns, six interceptions, 6.9 Y/A, and a rating of 79.5. In the final eight games, Gannon completed 60.8%, 16 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 8 Y/A, and a rating of 94.3. He went to his first career Pro Bowl at the age of 33.

Only Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning posted higher DYAR than Gannon that season.

2000 Oakland Raiders - Rich Gannon

Gannon immediately follow that up with his first All-Pro nod, making the first team after throwing 28 touchdowns against 11 interceptions as the Raiders went 12-4. Consider that the first two of these seasons are still without the addition of Jerry Rice.

But in the AFC Championship game against the amazing Baltimore Ravens defense, Gannon threw no touchdowns, two picks, and was sacked four times. Backup Bobby Hoying went 8-of-16, also throwing two picks in a 16-3 loss. To Trent Dilfer.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Brad Johnson

I don’t think this was the best quarterback season per se, or that close to it, but I have to consider things like postseason performance and conditioning the offense to run in a way that is best suited to the team as a whole. Johnson did a great job of limiting his turnovers that year — as we saw later on, a problem for him often — and he made the Pro Bowl with 22 touchdowns and six picks.

In the 2002 playoffs, Johnson threw one interception in all three games, but also had five touchdowns and was fine enough.

2001 Oakland Raiders - Rich Gannon

It may not be the 50 touchdowns and five interceptions that we’re using to seeing from “great seasons” today, but this is about as good as it could get in 2001: 65.8% completions, 3,828 yards, 27 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 95.5 passer rating. But also Gannon finished second in DYAR and third in DVOA, proving to be the most efficient QB in the NFL outside of Warner. He had two touchdowns and no picks in a playoff win over the New York Jets but then fell in OT the following week to ... the tuck rule.


Best season by a QB under Jon Gruden is

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    2001 Rich Gannon
    (401 votes)
  • 3%
    2002 Brad Johnson
    (19 votes)
  • 12%
    2019 Derek Carr
    (65 votes)
  • 8%
    2000 Rich Gannon
    (44 votes)
  • 0%
    (3 votes)
532 votes total Vote Now