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Jon Gruden watches more film than any coach in football... without a team to coach

Jon Gruden

Credit: ESPN Front Row

Who is Jon Gruden? Or, more importantly, who will he become?

On one hand, he's his generation's John Madden. Both won Super Bowls early -- Madden was 40 when he led the Raiders to a victory in Super Bowl XI, and Gruden was 39 when he beat the Raiders with the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. Both left the game shortly thereafter for the broadcast booth: Madden was 42 when he stopped coaching, Gruden was 46. And both had imminently mockable styles perfected by Frank Caliendo.

On the other, he could be football's version of John Nash. The mid-century Princeton mathematician and subject of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and Academy Award-winning movie A Beautiful Mind spent his days scribbling formulas in preparation to battle an imaginary enemy.

Compare the picture painted by Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei in his profile of Gruden, in which he writes that the former Raiders and Bucs head coach rises daily between 3:15 and 4:29 every morning to watch 12 hours of tape, rifling through his arsenal of game and practice film that can only be described as football's answer to the Library of Congress.

"I break down the tape like I'm a quality-control coach, just like I was with the Packers in 1992," Gruden told Bleacher Report. "I break it down by hand, every play. I type in the formation, Section 10 on my terminal. Sometimes I don't write anything, sometimes: 'boneheaded decision.' Sometimes: 'double-plus.' Or 'great audible.' 'Triple-plus.' 'Movement in the pocket.' 'Double-minus.' I have hundreds of these reels going at the same time.

"That's how maniacal, how sick it is."

Gruden's wife, Cindy, even plays the part of Jennifer Connolly to her husband's Russell Crowe.

"What the hell are you doing still working?," she asks him. "We have to go to dinner. This is the offseason. You don't have a team. You don't have a job."

Gruden's work with ESPN allows him the chance -- the much-needed outlet -- to prepare for the job that may or may not ever come.

"I get to go to any training camp," he said. "Last year, I got to go to the Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California, and stand on the field with Jerry Jones and watch practice. I got to watch Cowboy film and hang out with Tony Romo and Jason Witten and ask them questions. I used to hang out with the Jets withRex Ryan and Bill Callahan and Mike Pettine and Bob Sutton and Mike Westhoff. I thought that was the best coaching staff I'd ever seen. I'd sit there for three or four days until Cindy said it's time to come home. I'd say, 'One more day, just one more day.'"

If he does ever coach again -- Pompei wrote a dozen NFL and college teams have approached him since his 2008 quasi-retirement -- Gruden may come back as a disciple of the Urban Meyer/Dan Mullen offense. "If you ever came back in coaching, say you got Dak Prescott, I know what he did," Gruden said. "I know what Cam (Newton) did at Auburn. I have all my notes from that. I know what (Tim) Tebow did at Florida—studied the s--t out of him. I know what Alex (Smith) did at Utah."

A still young 52, Gruden stays connected to the game through his work with Monday Night Football, through hosting coaching staffs at his Fired Football Coaches Association offices in Tampa, through sponsorships with Dick's Sporting Goods, GoPro and Hooters to donate equipment to youth football leagues, and through his NFL Draft QB Camp, which he views as something of a football ministry. He's wealthy, living on a steady diet of $6.5 million salaries at ESPN. But he's completely, utterly obsessed with football. Pompei writes Gruden owns a boat and a vintage, custom-built Mustang and doesn't know how to operate either while living on a golf course without knowing how to golf.

Football is his life, whether he's coaching or not. "A three-yard gain," he said, "can be the greatest thing I've ever seen."

We know who Gruden is. But who will he become?

Madden left the game at 42 and never returned, but constructed a greater legacy outside football than he ever could on the sidelines. Nash harnessed his madness and turned it into a Nobel Prize.

Only Gruden knows, but he's probably too busy watching film to worry about an answer.

(HT Bleacher Report)