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NFL

Hard Knocks, Richie Incognito And The Hypocrisy of Jon Gruden

Gruden's praise, despite Incognito's baggage, should have heads shaking.

Image Credit: Getty Images

On the first episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, maligned offensive lineman Richie Incognito was portrayed as some kind of hero returning from war. Head coach Jon Gruden doubled down on his signing of a player who was at the center of one of the NFL’s worst scandals in recent memory, later telling reporters  “I like him. He’s a Pro Bowl left guard. The last time he strapped it on he wasn’t just good he was one of the best” 

When Jon Gruden took over as Raiders coach — 10 years after he last coached in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Bucs — he immediately made some moves that had people questioning his ability to be successful in today’s game. 

Gruden was given a huge contract and the keys to the kingdom in hopes that he would turn around a Raiders franchise that has made the playoffs just once since its 2002 Super Bowl loss. 

First, he got rid of charismatic punter Marquette King because he had too much swag, opinion, and celebrity for a special teams guy. Gruden’s supporters said that he was getting rid of all the “me” guys or those players who didn’t fit into the new culture he was trying to establish. 

Then he got rid of the best linebacker in the game, Khalil Mack, because he didn’t want to pay him and Mack had too much control in the locker room and too much juice with the young guys. He also got rid of his top wide receiver Amari Cooper, who had no characters issues whatsoever dating back to his days at Alabama with Nick Saban.  

Some people criticized Gruden and others praised him for revamping the culture of the team and getting rid of any All-Pro caliber African- American players with a locker room voice. 

It seemed that Gruden wanted guys on his team who wouldn’t require a huge contract or too much attention in the media and these superstars– for whatever reason — didn’t fit the bill. The way he handled them implied that the team would be better without them. 

Maybe there’s a method to his madness. Even I reserved judgment. 

That was until the Raiders traded for Antonio Brown, a guy whose unpredictability, criticism of teammates and coaches, and blatant disregard for team rules almost destroyed a Steelers franchise known for its stability and positive relationships with its star players. 

Now Gruden’s latest love affair revolves around Incognito, who is known for basically bullying former Dolphins offensive lineman Johnathan Martin out of the league and using racial and homophobic slurs towards the African-American player in 2013. It’s another odd move that has people scratching their heads. 

Back in May, when Incognito was signed, The Shadow League’s Caron Phillips wrote an article entitled, “Richie Incognito Once Again Exposes The NFL’s Hypocrisy”

Richie Incognito is back in the NFL because the Oakland Raiders don’t care about character issues. If you can still play at a high level, there will always be work for you in that league, unless your name is Colin Kaepernick.

Incognito is infamously known for what happened when he played for the Miami Dolphins back in 2013, when he was accused of bullying teammate Jonathan Martin by using racial and homophobic slurs against him.

Since then, Incognito has been involved in multiple incidents, on and off the field, and is generally thought of as a dirty player. On Tuesday, the Raiders signed him to a one-year deal because they believe he can help them.”

Is Gruden full of sh*t? Does he even know what he’s doing, because he often says one thing and does the complete opposite? The addition of Brown and Incognito support this.  

In justifying the acquisition of Incognito, Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said, “You can’t have all Boy Scouts.” 

As reported at the time by yardbarker.com, “It was quite an about-face, considering that a month ago Mayock couldn’t emphasize enough the importance he and Gruden placed on character.”

Phillips also noted the racial undertones that have gone along with Gruden’s decisions. He pointed out the fact that Kaepernick, who committed no crimes and has exemplary character, is blackballed from the league for bringing attention to social and racial injustice and police brutality. Meanwhile, Incognito (who’s suspended for the first two games of the season) and his long history of nonsense is welcomed back with open arms and lauded by the organization.

Brown is, arguably, the best receiver of his generation and Gruden knows he needs weapons for his quarterback, so signing AB under the circumstance is understandable. Besides, Brown hasn’t had any criminal activity or violated any of the league’s major rules on hate speech like Incognito, who isn’t Hall of Fame-caliber. 

All things considered, a brother could discern that Incognito is getting the white boy pass. Black guys who commit crimes are always just bad people, but as we see with the attitudes towards white mass shooters when a white male does something egregious, their actions get hidden behind the excuse of mental illness.

The Raiders are making an exception for a guy who can help them win, which shows you that they are no different than any other team that makes character exceptions for a player because he can ball. 

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