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Gruden returns to playing field

by AFL Press Release
January 14, 2002 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I)


AFL Press Release

CHICAGO - Six-time ArenaBowl champion and Arena Football Hall of Fame quarterback JAY GRUDEN has officially signed with the Orlando Predators, the League office announced today. Gruden will return to the playing field after serving the past four years as the team's head coach. Gruden announced his resignation last August; former assistant coach FRAN PAPASEDERO was named Orlando's new head coach.

In six years as a quarterback, Gruden established himself as one of the top players in Arena Football League history, as he compiled a 68-17 record while guiding the Tampa Bay Storm to four ArenaBowl championships. As Head Coach of the Orlando Predators (1998-2001), he compiled an equally impressive mark in leading that team to three ArenaBowl contests and two championships. He was inducted to the League's Hall of Fame in 1999.

Gruden, now 34, last played in 1996, when he passed for a career high 3,626 yards and 70 touchdowns in leading the Storm to 12-2 mark. Tampa Bay swept through the playoffs and capped its championship season with a 42-38 win over KURT WARNER's Iowa Barnstormers in ArenaBowl X.

In his stellar career, Gruden threw for a then-league-record 15,514 yards and 280 touchdowns. But it was in the playoffs where he excelled. He posted a 12-2 record, while throwing 52 touchdown passes in guiding the Strom to league titles in 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1996.

Gruden retired as a player following the 1996 season to become offensive coordinator for the expansion Nashville Kats. After helping that team to a 10 win season - most ever by an expansion team-Gruden was named Head Coach of the Orlando Predators.

In his first season as a head coach, Gruden posted a 9-5 record. Following a home playoff win over Nashville and an upset road win over Arizona, Gruden and the Predators pulled one of the biggest upsets in AFL history with a 62-31 win over top-seeded Tampa Bay. It was Orlando's first-ever championship in four trips to the ArenaBowl.

Despite a 7-7 season for Gruden and the Predators in 1999, the team claimed the final playoff spot. Still, Gruden managed to become the first head coach in league history to lead an eight-seed to the championship game as they defeated top-seeded Tampa Bay (41-17) and second-seeded Iowa (48-41) to advance to the ArenaBowl for a second consecutive year, when they fell to the Albany Firebirds, 59-48.

Beginning the 2000 season with his third starting quarterback in three years, Gruden's team went 11-3 and swept through the playoffs as Orlando won its second AFL title in three seasons. Including an 8-6 regular season record and first round loss to Chicago in 2001, Gruden leaves his post with a 43-23 mark as a head coach.

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