Marcum Would Have Been Proud Of Gruden
Last night, I had a friend ask me whether I was going to have the chance to cover the memorial service for the late Tim Marcum on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I told her, I wasn't going to be able to do so because of this damned thing called work, but it got me reflecting back on the life and times of the greatest coach that ever was in the Arena Football League. I don't think I would have wanted to go to this life commemoration to be a journalist. I think I would have wanted to go just to be Adam, the AFL fan who hated Marcum on the field, but respected the hell out of him always.
So today, as the AFL nation bids one final farewell to Coach Marcum, I'm taking the time to not be a journalist, and just write my thoughts. No backspaces short of typographical errors. No going back on my thoughts in the name of getting the right "story" out. Just me writing my thoughts. I suppose that's kind of the perk to being the main writer for a site which you and a couple buddies do basically 100% of the work for!
I'd be lying if I said I didn't immediately think about Marcum when Jay Gruden was named the head coach of the Washington Redskins last week. It isn't quite the story of Kurt Warner working his way from being a bag boy all the way up to a Super Bowl MVP through the AFL, but it might end up being the best story that the AFL has to offer by the time the last bit of dirt is shoveled onto the league. Here, we had a guy who came from Louisville, a rather unheralded university at the time, who went undrafted in the NFL, kicked around for a hot minute in Barcelona, and then ultimately came to this quirky little game we love known as arena football.
Though his place in AFL history was cemented with all those championships, the truth of the matter is that Gruden didn't play all that long, lasting only six seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm. He'll never be the guy that had all those gaudy numbers, but he's got a full set of knuckles with rings on them from his days as a player and two more as a coach for my dearly beloved Orlando Predators.
I'm sure that Gruden would tell you that his jaunt up the coaching ladder to get to the top of the chain with the Redskins was in part due to the name recognition with his brother; after all, Jon Gruden did give Jay his first NFL job as an offensive assistant while he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, it's not like little brother didn't do his work, too. Jay spent four seasons coaching the Preds before coming back to play for a couple of years, and then he was the coach again for five more campaigns. When the AFL went dark, Gruden had the opportunity to stay at home and coach the Florida Tuskers as an OC for a year, and then ultimately as the head coach. That's when Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals called Gruden up to become their offensive coordinator. The rest, as you know, is history.
And yet, all I'm thinking to myself is how proud Marcum must be of his top player protégé from his days with the Storm. I don't think it would be fair to say that Marcum made Gruden or that Gruden made Marcum, but the two were perfect for one another and their respective careers, and they both went on to flourish without the other as well.
But if there is one thing for sure, it's that Gruden is going to be coaching in the NFL with some of that good ol' Texas boy, Marcum in him as well. Remember back in 2002 when Gruden decided to suit up for the Preds once again at quarterback? I'll never forget Gruden telling my dad that the reason he was playing quarterback once again is because at least he knows how to take a damn snap.
You could say that Craig Whelihan had a few problems with that back in the day while Gruden was coaching the Predators. You just need to look at this game to know why Gruden wanted to play quarterback again. Seven fumbles in that one game was probably more than Gruden had the whole next season under center. (Three picks didn't help Orlando's cause in that game against the old Milwaukee Mustangs either.)
I'm sure Marcum taught Gruden that. After all, I'm sure if Marcum could have gone out there and kicked by himself, he wouldn't have had to put a bag over Kenny Stucker's head and introduce him to his team as the sixth kicker of the season the year the Storm last won the ArenaBowl in 2003.
Oh wait. So maybe it was Gruden who taught Marcum that? See, these two were perfect for each other.
As a side, maybe Marcum learned a thing or two about clock management from Gruden as well. I know that Gruden learned a thing or two from me! After all, after the Preds beat the Utah Blaze in a game in 2008, Gruden used part of his postgame interview to state that he managed the clock properly at the end of the first half because Adam Markowitz told him to.
I'll forever be able to say that I gave an NFL head coach advice that helped him win a game.
But I digress.
Marcum took his final knee just a few short weeks ago, and since that time, the man who owned the Storm during his epic run to greatness, Woody Kern passed along as well. It only seems fitting that it is now, as we go into 2014, that the Storm and the AFL have one chosen child to carry on the name of the franchise and the league on the biggest stage possible in the NFL as a head coach. That would be the only way that Marcum would have wanted it.
Tim Marcum wasn't just a builder of great football players. As another of his close friends and former players, Pat O'Hara would tell you, Marcum was a great builder of men. He preached character and good morals, and, as O'Hara has told me, when you went to play for Coach Marcum, you didn't just come out a better player, you came out a better man.
So regardless as to whether Gruden got some help along the way from his big brother, you just know that Marcum had a ton to do with the success which his gunslinger quarterback has now had both on the field and off of it as well.
Gruden might be the highest profile name which walked through the locker room doors with Marcum – and it was certainly a story worth telling. However, Marcum had thousands of other examples of people he made better just by coaching them up a bit.
Hell, Marcum even made me a better interviewer (by being the best interviewee I've ever had or probably ever will have), and as a result, he made me a better writer, too.
Yes, the reach of Tim Marcum spans a lot farther than just the 50-yard field which he coached in for the mass majority of his career. There are men in arena football, other indoor football leagues, the NFL, and in all sorts of walks of life who are now better because of him.
I'm saddened that today, I won't get a chance to share in those memories with the hundreds of others who will come and celebrate the life of Tim Marcum, but I am happy to know that there are so many who will.
Rest in peace, Coach.