And now he’s putting on the pads once more at age 34. So what does he think? Can he be another Michael Jordan? Can he be almost as good as he once was?
“I expect to be much better,” he said. “Mentally I’ll be like an Olympic gold medalist if you compare what I know now to what I knew then. Physically, I’ll be fine. I was never a scrambling quarterback anyway.”
And, of course, he’s in tiptop physical shape, right? The Predators’ roster calls him a 200-pounder — and there’s no doubt the “2” is right.“Hey, I never claimed to be the Michael Vick of arena football,” [Gruden] said. “I’m sure I’ll be called old and fat by some, but I know what I can do.”So does Predators Coach Fran Papasedero.“Jay’s right where he’s always been,” Papasedero said Wednesday while watching Gruden work. “His abs are never going to rip through his shirt, but then they never have.”And?“And he’s 100 percent mentally because he’s always 100 percent mentally — and he is passionate about the game.”On a scale of zero-to-100, Gruden gave himself a “32” physically but did not seem overly concerned.“That’s because I didn’t say that I’ve ever been higher than a 32.”
“I like having control over my team. I like signing who I want, cutting who I want, paying what I want and calling what I want on game day. … I’m kind of spoiled to where if I go somewhere else, and I’m low man on the totem pole, it’s hard for me to take that.”
“I’m 39, and I don’t take orders very well,” Predators Coach Jay Gruden said. “I like being in charge and calling all the plays and bringing in who I want to bring in and cutting who I want to cut, signing who I want to sign. Leaving when I want to leave.”
“He doesn’t have the mentality for the NFL,” said Kenny McEntyre, the Predators’ defensive specialist who joined the team in 1998. “In the NFL, they meet for eight, 10, 12 hours. Jay’s not that type of person.”
This season is particularly important to Schnellenberger. Under him, the Cardinals have gone 2-9, 3-8 and 3-7-1, hardly the stuff of legends. Schnellenberger’s lucrative five-year contract is up after next season, and to this point he has declined to negotiate an extension, although for the most part the city still seems quite enamored of him. He might be waiting for two things: If his 1988 team, which features a good quarterback in Jay Gruden and defensive stars Ed Reynolds and Pat Fitzgerald, can put together a winning record, his negotiating position with Louisville would be enhanced, as would be his attractiveness to other schools.
“Jay should be a coordinator in the NFL,” Haslett told the Tampa Tribune at the time. “He and his brother are so much alike, it’s unbelievable. Football-wise, Jay is ridiculously smart. He’s a great fit for us.”
“I never understood why I never got an opportunity, but I’m still a little bitter over that,” he said in June of that year. “Even at age 39, I’m still [mad] at every NFL GM and scout, probably one of the reasons I’m here still.”
Miller equates the transformation to the TV version of the Incredible Hulk: “David Banner during the week and Lou Ferrigno on game day.”
“I’m happy here,” Gruden told the paper. “I’ve never been a media hound. I don’t care if my name is in the paper or being mentioned for big-time jobs. I don’t have to be on Hard Knocks.“I just love coaching football and I love coaching players that have a passion for the game. I’ve got players I like, a staff I like and a town I love to live in. My wife and kids are happy. I’m not dying to make the jump just because it’s the NFL.”