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Poisoned Fruit

Tom uses Halloween as an opportunity to look at the frightful coaching tree of Jon Gruden

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins' impressive comeback victory over the Bucs last Sunday has made for a happy, peaceful bye week.

After a vigorous discussion about the Redskins' quarterback situation, Kirk Cousins answered most of the more pressing questions with his best game of the season.  Barring an injury or a Stafford-esque disaster, I think this is officially Cousins' job for the remainder of 2015.  What Cousins' role is in 2016 remains to be seen, but he's earned the gig for the rest of this year.

Speaking from a place of relative contentment, then, I thought I would use this weekend to write a pointless article cover a tangential topic that caught my eye during one of those stream-of-consciousness, down-the-rabbit-hole Wikipedia sessions.

The Wikipedia entry for most NFL coaches of note includes a partial "coaching tree," listing all of the guys who have gone on to become NFL head coaches after coaching under the subject of the entry.  One coaching tree in particular caught my attention several months back: That of Jon Gruden.

Gruden was, by all accounts, a solid NFL head coach.  He helped rebuild Oakland into a contender before leaving for Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl.  Even though it has now been several years since he coached, his name still often pops up whenever there's a high-profile NFL coaching vacancy.

With that in mind, then, I have little explanation for why his tree resembles this one.

Two provisos up front.  First, Jim Harbaugh is listed on Wikipedia as being part of Gruden's coaching tree, but he didn't come to Oakland until 2002, the year after Gruden left.  I'm not sure if someone in Gruden's employ edited the page to dilute the stink wafting off the record, but, in any case, Harbaugh doesn't count.

Secondly, and more importantly, I'll note here that commentary on the head coaching careers of these men is not an indication of their success as position coaches or coordinators.  This becomes obvious when you see some of the names on the list.

All of that said, here's a special, Halloween look at the progeny of "Chucky" Gruden:

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (2007-present): I'll start with the exception.  Tomlin has had an unquestionably good career in Pittsburgh.  He has four divisional titles, two AFC titles, and one Super Bowl title.  He has never had a losing record.  He's also still only 43 years old.

Bill Callahan, Oakland Raiders (2002-2003): Callahan took over Gruden's Raiders and guided them to the Super Bowl . . . where they were blown out by Gruden's Buccaneers.  In a bizarre turn of events, some of Callahan's players later accused him of sabotaging the Super Bowl with a bad gameplan, a testimonial that probably won't make it to Callahan's LinkedIn page.  Things completely fell apart the next year in Oakland, and Callahan was fired after a 4-12 season.  He landed on his feet at the University of Nebraska, alienated fans by replacing the Cornhuskers' option run with the West Coast Offense, then got fired after four seasons.  Those four years included the first two losing records at Nebraska in over four decades.  As Redskins fans know, Callahan is a superb offensive line coach, and worked wonders in Dallas before doing the same in Washington this year.

Rod Marinelli, Detroit Lions (2006-2008): After posting a 10-22 record in his first two seasons in Detroit, Marinelli outdid himself by leading the only 0-16 team in NFL history.  He's now the defensive coordinator in Dallas.

Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-2011): Morris took over as coach of the Bucs after Gruden left, and he was able to post a 10-6 record in one of his three seasons as Tampa Bay's head coach.  Unfortunately, his other two seasons were 3-13 and 4-12.

Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-present): Bradley is in his third season as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and, as of this writing, has a 9-30 record.  To be fair to Bradley, his .211 winning percentage is still a step up from his predecessor Mike Mularkey's .125 mark.  Progress!

Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears (2013-2014): Coming off of a five-year, ultra-successful run in the Canadian Football League that included two Grey Cup titles, Trestman presided over a disappointing 8-8 campaign in Chicago, then followed that up with a 5-11 mark that got him fired.  The latter season apparently also included Trestman naming Jeremiah Ratliff a captain just days after he shoved a coach, which didn't exactly endear Trestman to the team (or, presumably, his fellow coaches).

Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins (2014-present): Ah, yes.  Our friend Jay, brother of Jon, also makes this list.  While his ultimate fate is still to be determined, and the Redskins are trending upward thanks in no small part to Scot McCloughan (and Bill Callahan!), Gruden's current record stands at 7-16.

I have no idea why Gruden's spawn has been almost uniformly unsuccessful.  I don't think it's a commentary on Jon Gruden, though: As many Redskins fans know, the coaching tree of the legendary Joe Gibbs is almost nonexistent in terms of producing head coaches—much less successful head coaches.

Either way, I thought a peek into Gruden's gruesome coaching lineage was sufficiently scary and stomach-churning to be appropriate fodder for today.  Happy Halloween!