I was thinking on the playoff loss and had a very uncomfortable thought occur to me.
Did Gruden deliberately tank that game to get interviews for a HC position while the other likely candidates were still in the playoffs?
A little farfetched maybe, but there is some anecdotal evidence that supports the idea.
What did Gruden generally do when BJGE gains 2 yards on 1st and 2nd down several possessions in a row? Usually he KEPT feeding the ball to him. So why would he stop giving him the ball when he's actually running well? 7 and 8 yard gains out of that guy are rare enough that you'd think any OC would keep doing it until the opposing defense started stopping it.
Gruden has to be familiar enough with Dalton's strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback to know that having him throw 31 times in a single quarter is a recipe for disaster. 31 passing plays to only 4 running plays in the 4th. Bernard gained 12 yards on one of those 4 rushes, which was more than most of those pass plays were gaining.
When you're down by 10 and have the ball with 8 minutes left in the quarter, the situation is not desperate enough to completely abandon the running game. The one running play that was called after that point is the one that gained 12 yards.When you have a running back that has the potential to take it to the house on any given play, why wouldn't you give him more than ONE opportunity to do so?
Just looking at some of the bonehead decisions on Gruden's part in the second half of that game, I really have to wonder if he wasn't tanking that game on purpose to get a head start over some other guys that were being considered for the job he ended up getting. I can probably forgive a coach for making a dumb call now and then, but I cannot forgive a coach that will sell out his team for his own personal gain.
I can't prove that he did, the only one who can possibly know that is Gruden himself. But the circumstances do raise questions, at least to me.