Ask Farmer: How did Jon Gruden get the nickname ‘Chucky’?

An Oakland Raiders fan holds a Chucky doll.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to:

How did Jon Gruden get the nickname “Chucky”?

Rajeev Ganjendran

Los Gatos


Farmer: You don’t have to be a Raiders fan to know the “Chucky” reference is from the horror movie franchise “Child’s Play,” and that the sneering coach does bear an uncanny resemblance to the demonic doll in those films.

Gruden got the nickname in 1998, his first year as a head coach, from Oakland’s Harvey Williams. That running back incurred Gruden’s wrath after running the wrong way on a play.

“He went the wrong way on an audible,” Gruden told Sports Illustrated in a 2002 interview. “Ninety-six is to the right, 97 is to the left: We called a 96, he went 97. The guy went the other way. Of course, there were only five major television networks at the game, 70,000 fans there booing. Sorry for getting upset. Gee. Next thing I know, a newspaper has a picture of Chucky next to a picture of me. Next thing I know, no one knows my name anymore.”



Why doesn’t a player holding out like Le’Veon Bell just show up, collect his paycheck, and take a roster spot but just kneel if they try to hand off to him. Why do they skip games and lose a check?

Brandon Wilder


Farmer: The star Pittsburgh Steelers running back has a $14.5 million salary, so he’s losing $852,000 for every week he holds out. He’s hemorrhaging cash. That’s a novel idea, but if a player were to do that, he’d immediately be suspended (and fined) for conduct detrimental to the team, so he’d likely lose money faster. What’s more, he wouldn’t be sending an impressive message to potential future employers.


Incidentally, according to, Bell’s jersey sales have slipped out of the top 20 and tumbled all the way to 79th in popularity. Perhaps more painful, James Conner, his replacement, is No. 18 on that list.


Regarding TV production, how many cameras are used to produce a Super Bowl?

Charles Moore



Farmer: NBC used a whopping 106 cameras for its Super Bowl coverage last February. Thirty of those were devoted to pregame coverage and 76 were trained on the game, including 20 pylon cameras.

For the first time in Super Bowl history, there were two SkyCams used for the game, one at the traditional height and another “high sky” one above it. The network had 14 mobile production units and more than 500 employees on site.