GEORGETOWN — After Cincinnati's practice at Georgetown College on Saturday, a visitor asked the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, about his college days back at Louisville as the Cardinals' quarterback.
"If we had to go through (today) what we went through (then), I think they might have put some of those coaches in jail," Gruden said.
He's a Gruden. He is Jon's little brother. Thus Jay Gruden will say most anything, with a mischievous grin as if to imply we both know it's the truth but we won't make a big deal of it.
"Not many people liked us or cared about us," said Gruden of his days as a Cardinal (1985-88). "You'd go to class and if you were a little bit tardy, you'd get kicked out of class. If you were a basketball player (and) came in there a little late, they just gave him an A and let him go on his way."
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"It was a great experience," Gruden said.
The man with the pipe, head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who had won a national title at Miami and was then building a program from scratch in his hometown, made it a great experience.
"Coach Schnellenberger was hot," said Gruden, who played high school football in Florida. "He had just come off the Orange Bowl win down there where they beat Nebraska and the passing game and the quarterbacks he developed, they needed a quarterback.
"Luckily, I got to play as a freshman and sophomore. I got hurt as a sophomore, but started my junior and senior year. Great time."
Especially now that Gruden is a first-year coordinator in the NFL. His father being a longtime coach and scout, Gruden knew early on he wanted to coach on the offensive side of the ball.
"I learned a lot about football and about the offensive game," Gruden said. "Coach Schnellenberger was a great coach and had a great system and you learned the basic concepts of the passing game and how to read certain defenders and certain patterns. As a young kid right out of high school, I learned a lot fast."
Plus, he learned from some of the best. His offensive coordinator was Jack Burns, who went on to coach with the Falcons and Redskins in the NFL. His head coach was a man known for producing explosive, pro-style offenses.
"I thought if I'm going to play football, I want to play somewhere where I can learn from the best. And at the time, he was the best," said Gruden of Schnellenberger. "We didn't win a lot my first three years, obviously, but my fourth year we went 8-3 and it really made everything worthwhile."
Now, critics think the Bengals won't win a lot of games this year. Gone is Carson Palmer. Gone is Chad Ochocinco.
The quarterback is a rookie in former TCU star Andy Dalton. The coordinator is a rookie in Gruden, who spent seven years on his brother's staff in Tampa Bay but is better known for his success in arena football.
"I'm going to try and do it the way I want to do it, because if I'm going to take a swing at it, I'm going to take my swing and not somebody else's," Gruden said.
"I have a rookie quarterback who is going to be a great player, I believe. He's yet to take a live snap, but everything I've seen on tape and everything I've seen here today gives me no reason to believe otherwise."
"We've had a great relationship," said Dalton. "Even before I got drafted here, we hit it off from the beginning. He's made the transition easy for me and it's made it easier for me to come in and pick up on things quickly."
Is it maybe a little different relationship than say Gruden had with his coach back at Louisville?
"They might have worked us a little too hard, but I had no complaints." said Gruden with a grin. "He toughened everybody up and made men out of us all. I appreciate all of it."