Those who’ve worked face to face with Raiders’ Gruden and Rams’ McVay see resemblance

Rams coach Sean McVay, right, shares a moment with Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who gave McVay his first NFL opportunity with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

Rams coach Sean McVay and Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden share professional lineage, insane work ethic and near identical facial expressions.

They both apparently also can resemble “Chucky,” the temperamental character in the 1988 slasher movie, “Child’s Play,” that produced one of Gruden’s most memorable nicknames.

Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer and executive vice-president of football operations, worked in Tampa Bay with Gruden. He also hired McVay.

“I would say Jon’s ‘Chucky’ comes out a little bit more than Sean’s,” Demoff says. “But when Sean’s comes out it’s as good — or worse — than Jon’s.”


McVay, 32, and Gruden, 55, have something else in common: assistants who worked under both head coaches.

When the Rams play the Raiders next week on “Monday Night Football,” the sideline and the coaches booth in the press box will include Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson and Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, running backs coach Skip Peete, linebackers coach Joe Barry and safeties coach Ejiro Evero.

They, perhaps more than anyone, experienced up-close looks at — and from — Gruden and McVay.

Here’s why:


Olson coached under Gruden with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. That was also the year Gruden hired a family friend fresh out of college at Miami of Ohio — McVay — as a coaching assistant for the offense.

Olson remembered McVay as a young coach who created detailed, color-coded tip sheets for receivers.

“Not like your normal notes,” Olson says. “They were stimulating to the players.”

Nine years later, McVay hired Olson as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach. The 20-something McVay that Olson remembered had matured — “I was just, ‘Wow. This guy is almost a savant,’ ” Olson said — and sounded at times like their former boss with the Buccaneers.

“I was like, ‘That’s a Gruden-ism. That’s a Gruden-ism,’” Olson said, laughing.

Olson joined the Raiders’ staff when Gruden returned to coaching after a 10-year hiatus as a broadcaster. He hears similar expressions to those he heard last season in Los Angeles.

“I don’t think, ‘That’s McVay, that’s McVay,’” Olson said. “Jon was the originator. I haven’t heard Jon steal anything from Sean yet.

“Maybe in time … he’ll steal a couple of his McVay-isms.”


Barry worked under Gruden with the Buccaneers but had left the staff to become the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator before McVay arrived. They coached together as assistants with the Washington Redskins before McVay hired him.

“You hear the stories of how early Jon gets up, how early Sean gets up to get to work at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Barry said. “That’s real. It’s not phony. They are grinders.

“They won’t put up with you if you’re not a grinder. But they allow you to be a grinder in your own way.”

Peete worked as a fellow assistant with Gruden at the University of Pittsburgh in 1991, and then coached Raiders running backs during Gruden’s first stint with the team.

Peete was the Rams’ running backs coach in 2016, and McVay retained him after replacing Jeff Fisher. Peete noticed similarities to Gruden the first day the Rams got onto the field for organized-team activities.

“The intensity that we started practice with that very first day, you could see it was going to be a little more intense,” he said.

Kromer coached under Gruden with the Raiders and the Buccaneers.

He said Gruden’s and McVay’s intense facial expressions are borne from their expectation that those working with and playing for them will meet their standard for exacting execution.


“You can feel the intensity in their face when it isn’t exact,” Kromer said. “It could still be good, but when it’s not exact, yeah, it looks like they ate a sour grape.”

Evero was a defensive quality control coach for the Buccaneers in 2008 when McVay joined the staff. Evero describes McVay as “a football encyclopedia” with intensity similar to Gruden.

“But Jon,” Evero said, jokingly, “is definitely angrier than Sean.”

Rams cornerback Aqib Talib and Raiders tight end Derek Carrier are the only players who have played under both head coaches.

“When they get in front of a room and they start speaking, you won’t find a guy in that room texting or biting his nails,” Talib said. “Everyone is going to be locked in. They’re going to be on both of them guys.”

Demoff was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers management team in 2008. He observed Gruden but joked recently that he had no recollection of McVay in Tampa Bay.

“We were both so far down the levels,” he said, “our two dungeons never crossed.”

But Demoff “really picked Jon’s brain” about coaching candidates before interviewing McVay and hiring him as Rams coach in January 2017.

Demoff see’ similarities in their mannerisms and verbal cadence. And in other areas as well.

“Kind of cock-eyed, when they look at you like, ‘Are you insane?’ ” Demoff says, chuckling. “They’ve got the same head tilt. That’s where I see it.”

But there are differences.

McVay has “a little bit of a softer edge,” Demoff said, adding that Gruden might have been that way too before the ups and downs of coaching in the NFL hardened him.

Gruden was traded by the Raiders to the Buccaneers. He won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, but also was fired after the 2008 season.

McVay has known only success in his lone season as a head coach.

“Two fantastic coaches,” Demoff said. “We would be very fortunate if Sean were to have the success that Jon did.”

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

Get our daily Sports Report newsletter