John Gruden’s quest for retribution against the NFL looks ironclad and shows no hint of a settlement

There was a lot of unpacking in the report. And there was no shortage of juice.

That was the consensus in NFL circles on Wednesday, with league influencers indulging in their favorite nuggets from ESPN’s detailed survey of potential sources for John Gruden’s leaked emails that cost him his job with the Las Vegas Raiders, then reportedly passed on to Daniel. Sale by Snyder to Washington Commanders. For most of the day, league sources have been sharing screenshots or quotes from parts of the story, accompanied by emoji or gleeful lines about a swampy mess that only seems to get deeper with each turn of the calendar.

Was it Raiders owner Mark Davis, who reportedly told one of his charges, “Fuck the NFL. And damn Dan Snyder,” or the details of the tangled partnership between the league, Snyder, entertainment company Roc Nation, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, there seemed to be something for everyone. But one man in particular could get away with more ammunition than anyone else.

John Gruden.

The former Raiders head coach has long told confidants that he believes the leak of his private emails containing racist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks was part of a planned “strike job” by enemies in the league’s office. His own agent repeated the claim in August 2022, and Gruden’s legal team backed him pending litigation against the NFL. He now has an ESPN report detailing an alleged intersection of complications for the league, tying together Goodell’s handling of Snyder and the Washington team owner’s desperate attempt to survive the plethora of investigations into himself and his franchise. And in between: a business relationship with Roc Nation that may have been at the center of the storm around Gruden, Snyder and Goodell.

As mentioned earlier, you need to unpack a lot.

But the most poignant underlying theme that came up among those closest to Gurden late on Wednesday night was that it was all fuel for a fire that had blazed white since Gruden was driven out of the Raiders.

“John will take this to the end,” said a league source with personal ties to Gruden, Goodell and former Washington Capitals executive Bruce Allen, who was the recipient of Gruden’s leaked emails. “It’s as personal as it gets.”

“This” refers to Gruden’s pending lawsuit, which is currently suspended in the Nevada legal system as the state Supreme Court hears the NFL’s appeal to enforce the complaint in the league’s private arbitration system. And “all the way” refers to where Gruden told his inner circle that he wanted the trial to go: to a courtroom where NFL powerhouses like Goodell and Snyder would have to testify under oath about how they processed his e-mails.

“It’s not about the money,” the source said. “John doesn’t care about money. He has money. But he thinks Goodell and [NFL general counsel] Jeff Pash fucked him. He hunts everyone.”

Since the emails were leaked to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in October 2021, many of Gruden’s closest allies have privately put aside the content of what Gruden wrote and focused on one paramount issue: the extensive investigation into the Commanders franchise and about 650 000 emails and messages, why was only him singled out and who had the motivation to use them against him?

The ESPN article highlighted some of the most logical supply chain candidates. But a pound of Gruden’s flesh and any additional collateral damage can only be obtained through the legal system. And after this week’s revelations, it seems less likely than ever that this will be a settlement battle.

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