Saturday, January 27, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 27, 2001

Rookie Pro Bowl coach just knows how to win

By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

In just three seasons, Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden has figured out how to "Just win, baby."

Oakland Raiders coach John Gruden has transformed his team back into a winner.

The Honolulu Advertiser

In the process, he’s transformed a "has been" organization back into a winner.

Oakland finished a dismal 4-12 in 1997 under Joe Bugel.

Gruden was hired on Jan. 22, 1998, and finished 8-8 in his first two seasons. This past season, Oakland finished 12-4 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

The Raiders reached the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 14, but were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens, 16-3.

Gruden will coach the AFC team in the Pro Bowl for the first time on Feb. 4 at Aloha Stadium. Minnesota’s Dennis Green will be the NFC coach for the second time.

"I’m a rookie, I’m new at this," said Gruden, during the Pro Bowl Kickoff Media Luncheon & News Conference yesterday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. "It’s a great thrill for me personally. We’ll try to win the game and work hard as part of the AFC."

After the loss to Baltimore, Gruden appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last week with his evil doll "Chucky."

"I was a little bit more nervous for Jay Leno than coaching the Pro Bowl," said Gruden, the NFL’s youngest coach at 37. "I’m a small-time guy from Ohio. That was a great thrill for me and my wife (Cindy) to see Burbank, California, and meet Jay Leno, a guy I’ve watched for years."

Gruden is undecided on who will win tomorrow’s Super Bowl between Baltimore and the New York Giants. He also said he wasn’t pleased with the way the Super Bowl was being hyped.

"I’ve not liked what I’ve read about it," Gruden said. "I think people are disappointed in the two participants. It’ll be a very physical and exciting football game."

Tennessee Titans safety Blaine Bishop, whose team was also eliminated by the Ravens in the playoffs, thinks the Giants will win.

"I wanted to go with the Ravens since they beat us," said Bishop yesterday. "The Giants have more firepower on offense. I want to go with the AFC, but (the Giants) are a more complete team."

Bishop, who is one of seven Titans on the AFC roster, also wanted to clear up a misconception about his team.

"We finished No. 1 in defense, although everyone thinks the Ravens did," he said.

Notes: This year’s Pro Bowl will be the 51st. ... All 21 previous Pro Bowls at Aloha Stadium have been sellouts. ... Forty players (16 AFC and 24 NFC) will be playing in their first Pro Bowl. ... Tampa Bay offensive lineman Randall McDaniel will make a record 12th Pro Bowl appearance. He is currently tied with Reggie White. ... Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper (24 years, 7 days) will be the fifth youngest quarterback to play in a Pro Bowl. ... Trace Armstrong of Chicago tied a record for most seasons played before being selected to a Pro Bowl (12). He is tied with quarterback Steve Beuerlein and offensive lineman Bob Young. ... Of the 86 players, 34 (19 AFC, 15 NFC) are former first-round draft picks. ... Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher was the only rookie selected to this year’s Pro Bowl.

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