As we all know, Jay Gruden, the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, was plucked by and Marvin Lewis from the United Football Leage, where he was the head coach for the Florida Tuskers. But, before Gruden landed what he calls his "dream job," he was coaching with his older brother Jon for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For seven seasons the two brothers coached together. Then in 2008, the front office decided to go in a different direction. Both Jay and Jon were out of a job.
Jon went to the broadcast booth, finding a job with the Monday Night Football crew, where he still is today. Jay, on the other hand, wasn't ready to quit coaching, he found an opportunity with the UFL after Jim Haslett offered him a job.
"The UFL helped a lot -- especially when I didn't have a job," Jay Gruden said, laughing. "I was skeptical of the new league. I mean, jeez-to-Pete, here we go again with Arena football."
Jay Gruden was successful during his stay in the UFL, bringing the Florida Tuskers, now the Virginia Destroyers, a league championship. His rise from the UFL to the NFL is typical of what will happen to the UFL's brighter stars; the NFL will continue to find the most talented players and coaches from the UFL and steal them away.
UFL commissioner, Michael Huyghue, said:
"Jim Fassel [Las Vegas' coach] had the same opportunity," said Huyghue. "That speaks volumes about our league. The NFL will always go get the best that's out there."
Huyghue knows that this is the nature of the beast, and even though the league has struggled financially, losing $32 million in their first year and $50 million in their second, to the point that Mark Cuban sued them to get his $5 million loan back, he doesn't think 2011 is a make or break year for his football league.
"Sometimes things get overdramatized," Huyghue said. "We have $115 million invested in the league, with $5 million owed. In the grand scheme of things, these debts are not as big a number as people think. … The health of our owners hasn't changed.
"We just have to continue to keep grinding and keep playing football."
Huyghue is keeping an eye on the NFL's labor negotiations. He believes that, if the NFL goes into a lockout, his league could be poised to soak up a lot of the disgruntled fans and possibly even some of the money that they would usually throw at the NFL.
"It's not part of the strategy," Huyghue insisted. "… You can't plan on it, but you can position yourself.
"If this happens, if people turn off to the billionaires-versus-millionaires argument, that creates an opportunity for a league like ours. It could benefit us incredibly."
The UFL, for right now, is in limbo. They may not be walking a razor's edge, on the verge of falling into bankruptcy, but that doesn't mean that they're on solid ground either. For right now, they're going to have to live with their role of being a talent overflow for the NFL, and a place where professional teams can pluck the talent that rises to the top. That's what the Bengals did with Jay Gruden and that's what the NFL will continue to do.
Who knows, though? If greed gets the best of the NFL, the UFL may be in a position to make their ground much more solid than it has been in the past.