INDIANAPOLIS — Maybe it was just the Pride of Chucky.
Jon Gruden, Darth Raider, was finally asked when he took the Bucs off the list of teams he would like to coach once he decided to return to the sideline after nine seasons.
"When I was fired," Gruden said.
Ouch. There can't be anything left to grind on that ax.
Gruden was back at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday, and you could tell he was loving all of it.
"I like the camaraderie of it all," Gruden, 54, said. "I also get to fraternize with the coaches from around the league, and it's our first opportunity to see what players we have in this draft. So I'm going to be part of the interview process at night and into the late evening. I might be out after curfew a few times this week because I got a free pass from my wife."
In a parallel universe, Gruden would have shown up in Indianapolis wearing the colors of the team he coached to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory before he was fired in 2008 after seven seasons in Tampa Bay.
It seems hard to believe, with the Bucs mired in what would become a 5-11 season last year, that the Glazers didn't at least entertain a reunion of Gruden and the team the family owns.
Ultimately, maybe it was the Raiders' offer of a 10-year, $100 million contract that swayed the Glazers not to rehire Gruden. Or maybe they believed their coach, Dirk Koetter, deserved a third season.
Was there a secret meeting at the Fired Football Coaches Association? A phone call on the Gruden Hotline?
"Nuh-uh. Nope," Gruden said.
Gruden did credit the Glazers and the Bucs for helping him finally decide to leave ESPN to return to the NFL. Clarity arrived Dec. 19 when Gruden was inducted into the Bucs' Ring of Honor at halftime of a game he called on Monday Night Football.
The next week, he was offered the Raiders job by owner Mark Davis.
"That kind of did push me over the top," Gruden said of the Ring of Honor ceremony. "I'd spent a lot of time with players and coaches around the country, and I've always had the urge to come back. But being on the field that night with (his Super Bowl-winning players) Brad Johnson and (Derrick) Brooks and Ronde Barber, Joe Jurevicius, it did push me over the edge, and you only live once, so here I am."
Gruden was at his charismatic best Wednesday. This was child's play. His news conference was captivating and drew the largest audience of the day, equaled only by the one for Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who won Super Bowl LII a few weeks ago.
With one eyebrow cocked, Gruden had his usual list of complaints.
He lamented not being able to spend time with his players yet because of league rules that have become more restrictive since he last coached.
"I don't know these guys. I've never coached them," Gruden said. "Never met half of them. So that's been very, very difficult for me, and I've been emotional about it at times."
He pooh-poohed how the NFL has fallen into the hands of numbers crunchers who spit out volumes of analytic data he hasn't learned to read.
"Are you talking about the analytics, the GPS, the modern technology?" Gruden said. "Man, I'm trying to throw the game back to 1998. It's one thing to have the data, or day-ta. It's another thing to know how to read (it). So I'm not going to rely on GPSes and all the modern technology.
"I will certainly have some people that are professional that can help me from that regard, but I still think doing things the old-fashioned way is a good way, and we're going to try to lean the needle that way a little bit."
Gruden also said elements of the college and high school game might sneak into his offense.
"Plant High School in Tampa," Gruden said. "I might put their playbook in."
This is the easy part. As Gruden likes to say, he hasn't lost a game in nearly a decade. He's going to bring energy to the Raiders. He will get the most from quarterback Derek Carr. He could hit the jackpot before the team heads for Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
But if you believe Gruden, coaching the Raiders again was all he wanted to do.
"It's been really cool," he said. "Not many people get a chance to go back and do it a second time. It's a neat story for me, but I want to take advantage of the opportunity, and I know I have a lot to prove."