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Fact Check: Jon Gruden Enjoys Embellishments

↵Watching the Monday Night Football game last week, it was evident that Jon Gruden likes to embellish a lot about the game of football. And while it's fine to embellish a player's toughness or grit or, well I think his go-to lines only have something to do with how gritty or tough a player is, it's another thing to completely fabricate statistics. Take, for example, his comment last week that Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk had three years with 100 tackles or more. A quick look at his career stats and you'd know that's completely untrue. ↵

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↵We thought that this week, it'd be fun to fact-check the coach to see exactly how much Gruden gets right during the game. To be fair, Gruden is in a unique position in the Monday Night Football booth. He has the exact same strengths as an analyst as Ron Jaworski. Gruden is a coach, and therefore an X's and O's guy, but Jaws has made a career out of breaking down tape. Gruden loves the smashing of mouths and gets excited with big hits and tough runs. But so does Jaws. And Jaws was always great at pulling out random stats that he obviously had prepared before the game, but now the ESPN producers have Gruden doing a lot of that. Hence, some of Gruden's comments seems prepared and forced to make sure he has his fair share of the analysis. I'm not sure that's his fault. ↵

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↵If you watch the game closely, Jaws and Gruden often end up saying the same things just minutes apart. It's almost as if they aren't listening to each other in the booth, busy looking up the next nugget of statistical information to share. ↵

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↵Now, to their credit, having two analysts in the booth allows one to be probing for stats while the other is analyzing the play. Gruden and Jaworski do a good job of alternating analysis, which we assume says more about Tirico's ability to balance the booth and producer Jay Rothman and crew's ability to make their time equitable. ↵

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↵Okay, fine, all of that analysis was to dress up the fact that it would be nitpicky to completely rip Gruden for making things up this week. He was right when he said Anquan Boldin was the "first guy, earliest to catch 500 balls in his career." He was right when he said Adrian Wilson was a sack away from being in the 20-20 club. ↵

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↵Gruden was dead on when he followed a deflected pass by stating that, "all of these defensive linemen for Arizona are 6-4 or better." True, Bertrand Berry is listed at 6-3 and as a DE on the roster, but the depth chart has him as an OLB. So score one for coach. ↵

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↵See, it's not that Gruden's facts are wrong, per se. It's just that he likes to embellish. ↵

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↵Take this, during a highlight of Patrick Willis: ↵

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↵⇥"Patrick Willis is built perfectly to play in space. He's got 4.4 speed...he can run like a DB. But what a great job by Patrick Willis, forcing the fumble." ↵
↵Willis ran a 4.49 at the NFL Combine as his fastest time and, last I checked, the NFL doesn't record any times later in a player's career. Shortly thereafter, Gruden took some liberties with the skill-set of 49er tight end Delanie Walker: ↵
↵⇥"He's an interesting guy. He's a matchup problem for all kind of defenses. Do you play nickel or do you play your base defense? This guy has 20 tackles on special teams, he returns kickoffs, he's got rare athletic ability and Mike Singletary likes to use him to create matchups for the 49ers." ↵
↵Walker is listed at 6-0, 242 pounds, so he's more fullback than tight end and he does create matchup problems, but 'rare athletic ability' seems a bit far-fetched. Add in the fact that he only has 14 tackles this season, and not 20, to add to his 13 catches, three rushes and five kickoff returns, and again, Gruden may be overselling the guy. ↵

↵Gruden was right on the fact that San Francisco needed to push Frank Gore against the Cardinals and they sure listened. In the first quarter, Tirico and Gruden explained that Gore had been seldom used in recent weeks, but had gone over 1,000 yards three-straight years. Gruden added: ↵

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↵⇥"Frank Gore's gone over 1,000-yards, as you pointed out, three straight years. That's never happened in 49er history and the running game is something you've got to stay with to get good at." ↵
↵That's not really fair to say, because while Gore is the only back to go over 1,000 yards three-straight years himself, the intimation was that San Francisco has never had any back go over 1,000 yards three years in a row, when in fact Garrison Hearst and Charlie Garner combined to break the threshold for five-consecutive years (Hearst 1997, 1998, 2001 and Garner in 1999, 2000). Semantics, perhaps, but still relevant to bring up. ↵

↵Turnovers were obviously the story of the game last night with the Cardinals giving the ball up seven times. Gruden was all over it in the first quarter, calling the fumbles, "the storyline of this football game." He then said that the fumbles were, "uncharacteristic of a team that's gonna win their division, potentially," and later in the game credited San Francisco for taking the ball away from, "a heckuva offense that doesn't turn it over very often." ↵

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↵The Cardinals are 29th in the league in turnovers. Now, their 29 turnovers are skewed by the seven last night, but if you gave them just one turnover against the 49ers – below their season average coming into the game – the Cardinals were at best in the middle of the pack in terms of coughing the ball up. Besides, Arizona did have a game with six turnovers this year, and Kurt Warner has always had issues with fumbling the ball, so to call the turnovers uncharacteristic was, again, a stretch. ↵

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↵The last quote is more what we've come to expect from Gruden this year: ↵

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↵⇥"Well, you know these 49er safeties, if you just look at statistics, Dashon Goldson number 38 and number 32 Michael Lewis, these two safeties are closing in on 100 tackles. These guys are around the football a lot." ↵
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↵Goldson, who did have a huge game on Monday night, has 87 tackles, 70 of which are solo stops. Lewis has 64, with 53 solo. I'm not great at math, but 64 isn't really closing in on anything. And if you do the projections, Goldson is barely on pace to get to 100 tackles by season's end, while Lewis won't come close. Still good numbers for safeties, but again, a total overstatement by Gruden, if you just look at statistics. ↵

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↵The bottom line is this: Jon Gruden gets excited when he watches football. He was pretty clean this week, but even in a clean week, sometimes the facts get stretched. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.