Earlier this season, Mike Tomlin had high praise for Jon Gruden. With his Steelers preparing to take on Gruden's Raiders, Tomlin assured reporters that his former mentor had "no fear" as a head coach, highlighting Gruden's "can-do approach" and "positive energy," both of which Tomlin said he learned from working under the former Buccaneers coach back in the early 2000s. Now, a month later, with Gruden out as Raiders coach, Tomlin opened up about his ex-mentor's resignation in the wake of an email scandal.
"I'm just saddened by it," Tomlin said Tuesday. "I'm saddened for the Raiders organization, I'm saddened for the people that were offended by it, I'm saddened for Coach Gruden. It's a sad commentary. And that's really the only opinion that I care to share at this juncture."
Gruden is just two days removed from stepping down -- a move that followed a New York Times report detailing a pattern of insensitive language, including homophobic and misogynistic comments, in his email communications between 2010-2018.
Before becoming the Steelers coach and serving one year as the Vikings defensive coordinator, Tomlin spent four seasons working under Gruden in Tampa Bay, serving as the latter's defensive backs coach. Tomlin won a Super Bowl alongside Gruden in 2002 and fostered longstanding a respect for the coach as an NFL influence.
"He looks at an issue or a problem, and he sees it as an opportunity," Tomlin said of Gruden in September, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. "I worked for him for four years. You can't fake that. It's every day from him. I've probably always generally had that mentality, but he helped me hone it as a vocation, as a coach. His can-do approach, the positive energy that he consistently brings to whatever challenge that the job presents helped me grow in a big way as a coach when I worked for him as a young guy, for sure."