Anytime a former head coach faces his old team one year later, the notion suggests he has the advantage.
That idea is being thought of quite a bit as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII Sunday in San Diego. Tampa head coach Jon Gruden paced and scowled the Raider sideline for the previous four seasons before getting traded to the Bucs.
"Our focus is not on Jon and what he meant to us personally," Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "We won't need to make a whole lot of changes. We're not a big audible team. We don't use a lot of hand signals. And we don't call a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage. A lot of their terminology and a lot of the calls are different. And it's all coded, and we change it every week anyway, so it wouldn't mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people."
Since Gruden is just one year removed from Oakland, he has intimate knowledge of each player's strengths and weaknesses. He can pick through the roster and know what to stay away from, as well as how to exploit certain players. He knows what they struggled with that maybe no one has exploited yet.
The Raiders still run facets of Gruden's offense but it is not a carbon copy. Bill Callahan, who was the Raiders offensive line coach and offensive coordinator under Gruden, was simply viewed as a caretaker when he replaced Gruden. That viewpoint is no longer the case.
"We run the same offense but I think that's about it," Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown said. "We've taken Gruden's offense and expanded it a little bit more than when he was here."
Callahan, however, has taken a talented offense and made it better. He is trying to become the first rookie head coach since George Seifert (1989 San Francisco) to win a Super Bowl.
On the surface, you may equate Gruden's outwardly fiery demeanor with an aggressive approach but he prefers the ground game. Callahan's outwardly placid demeanor might be associated with a conservative approach but his play calling is like a racecar driver with the pedal to the floor and shifting into fifth gear. Callahan, however, knows when to downshift.
Conventional wisdom suggests Gruden has the edge but Callahan is anything but predictable. He may have a few more things up his sleeve.