Wednesday, August 10

Jeff Fisher rejects Jon Gruden’s claim that the NFL pressured the Rams to recruit Michael Sam

Jeff Fisher has joined the chorus of teams, players and contemporaries who criticize former Raiders coach Jon Gruden for the content of the emails he exchanged with former Washington soccer team president Bruce Allen from 2010 to 2018.

Fisher made a particular exception to Gruden’s belief that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell forced him, then the St. Louis Rams coach, to draft Michael Sam, simply because he came out gay before the 2014 NFL Draft. Gruden, in an email to Allen, said the NFL shouldn’t have pressured him to write “q-rs.”

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Fisher responded to that claim Tuesday night, saying he received no such pressure from the league. He also explained why St. Louis chose Sam with its penultimate draft pick and bolstered its support for the 2014 seventh-round pick:

Sam, the SEC’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, had 47 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, two passes defended, two forced fumbles and one fumbles recovery for a touchdown that season. It was a year his Missouri Tigers went 12-2 and made it to the SEC championship game. He played on the St. Louis and Dallas practice teams in 2014 before spending time in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes in 2015.

“As a head coach for more than 20 years, we select or do not select players based on a variety of qualities,” Fisher wrote of his selection practices. “Your sexual orientation will never – and never should – play a role in the decision-making process.”

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Sam wasn’t the only target of Gruden’s hateful language. The former Buccaneers and Raiders coach, who sent those emails while he was a color analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” also used a racist trope to describe former NFLPA CEO DeMaurice Smith, mocking Caitlyn. Jenner after his transition and used various homophobic slurs to describe Goodell, league owners and reporters covering the league.

Gruden announced his resignation as the Raiders coach on Monday following The New York Times report of the emails, which had been discovered by the NFL as part of a workplace misconduct investigation into Allen.

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Others who have denounced Gruden following the email leaks include his former team, the Buccaneers, and former wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. The NFL and Raiders also reported the first email that came to light Friday when Gruden told Allen, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin (sic) tires.”

Fisher, who began his career as an NFL head coach in 1994 with the Houston Oilers, trained for 22 years in the league. That includes a five-year stint with the Rams, both in St. Louis and Los Angeles. He was 173-165-1 as a head coach, including 31-45 with the Rams. He last coached in the NFL in 2016.

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