Jon Gruden had Aaron Rodgers throw to Jerry Rice in his pre-draft workout
As he watched Aaron Rodgers put on a spectacular performance on “Monday Night Football” against the Kansas City Chiefs, announcer Jon Gruden couldn’t help but reminisce about what could have been.
Gruden was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005 when the team passed on Rodgers with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. Instead, the Bucs took Cadillac Williams, who later became Rookie of the Year but had his career derailed by injury.
Even though the Bucs took Cadillac, Gruden still worked out Rodgers before the draft. During Monday’s game, he shared the story of how he brought Jerry Rice to catch passes from Rodgers during the workout to see how the former Cal QB would handle it.
“I brought Jerry Rice with me. I brought Jerry Rice and I said, ‘Hey Aaron, you tell Rice what routes to run.’ I wanted to put some pressure on Aaron Rodgers and see how he reacted,” Gruden recalled. “I took Cadillac Williams. He was the Rookie of the Year, but just think what could have happened if you had this Aaron Rodgers. No disrespect to Cadillac Williams.
“That was quite a day. We went out there and Jerry Rice walked down the steps and Aaron Rodgers said, ‘Who’s that guy walking down the steps?’ I said, ‘that’s the receiver you’re going to throw to today.’ He grabbed me and said, ‘holy cow, that’s Jerry Rice!’ I go, ‘Yeah, tell him what routes to run.'”
Rodgers couldn’t have been too impressive considering Gruden passed him up as he slipped to No. 24 overall, but that’s an awesome story. Imagine you’re going to work out for a team and they bring you the best receiver in the history of the game to throw to. No pressure.
Rodgers actually talked about the workout back in 2011. He said Gruden called him before the draft and really made it seem like the Bucs were going to take him, but then they went in a different direction.
“I don’t fault them for taking Cadillac,” Rodgers told The Tampa Bay Times in 2011. “He had an incredible college career and a great rookie season. He was slowed down by some injuries.
“But I don’t blame them at all or don’t hold any animosity toward Jon and Bruce or the organization. Everything kind of happens for a reason. Looking back on when they came out and visited me in Berkeley, that was one of my top moments in my sports career, being able to throw to Jerry Rice.”
Before the draft in ’05, Rodgers said he would “love to play” for Gruden.
“This is surreal to me,” Rodgers said. “I remember watching the Oakland Raiders with Jerry, Jon Gruden and Rich Gannon. I remember thinking, ‘Man, I’d love to play for Jon Gruden.'”
Sorry to add insult to injury, Bucs fans. Gruden already admitted his error, but consider that the team rolled with Brian Griese and Chris Simms at quarterback instead of picking Rodgers. That’s where you see just how bad the pick was.
That was Gruden’s downfall. After he took middling QB Rich Gannon and turned him into the league MVP, he thought he could do the same with any mediocre QB thereafter. He was wrong, and never having a franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay is what finally got him fired. But as we’re seeing, it seems like he still has questionable taste in quarterbacks.