The real Jon Gruden has disappointed this season, to say the least, but the fake Jon Gruden has been right on point.
While the 55-year-old trades his best player, leads the Raiders to an underwhelming 1-5 start and inspires fans to make a website counting down the milliseconds until his 10-year contract expires, a 26-year-old public relations and content specialist at a real estate investment firm in Ohio takes advantage.
Justin Greear created the Jon Gruden Twitter parody account before the 2014 season, after his Tim Tebow parody account ran out of gas with Tebow fading from the spotlight. Greear picked Gruden as another iconic personality the masses knew from his gig as Monday Night Football color commentator, and the account gained 100,000 followers in three months. Now @Faux_Gruden has more than 348,000 followers, combining Greear’s sense of humor with popular Gruden-isms to entertain Twitter as Gruden hops back in the coaching saddle with the Raiders.
“I think the things that I tweet out, it’s so stupid sometimes,” Greear said. ” … The way Gruden is just kind of lines up perfectly with my sense of humor, so I can use the things that he says but like a funny twist on it.”
The account’s first tweet came Aug. 20, 2014. “Got a twitter thing and I’ll tell ya what I’m not quite sure what I’m doing,” it read. Four-plus years later as Oakland’s head coach, Gruden would probably say the same thing if he joined Twitter, which he never will. He did say, however, he was aware of a “Twitter report” about cornerback Rashaan Melvin’s frustration with his playing time against the Seahawks last Sunday, but that’s about as far as the real Gruden’s Twitter involvement stretches.
Faux Gruden’s first tweet compiled only seven retweets and 22 likes. Greear used his Tebow parody account, which had climbed to about 25,000 followers in three years, to retweet the Gruden account and spread its name. Some of the account’s early tweets to top 1,000 retweets and 1,000 likes: On Jan. 27, 2015, before the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl, Greear wrote, “Wow. Marshawn Lynch knows how to get me motivated. He truly has a way with words, man. Kind of like Dr. Seuss. I love Green Eggs and Ham.” During that Super Bowl, he tweeted, “A Brady Bunch commercial following a Tom Brady interception. Wow. If there’s a Willson commercial after this drive then my mind will explode.” Then, when Russell Wilson didn’t hand off to Lynch and instead threw an interception, Greear delivered a gem. “I’ll tell ya what, man, if the Seahawks would’ve ran Spider 2 Y Banana right there on the goal line, they’re the Super Bowl Champions.”
Greear tweeted three times on his first day with the account but now he tweets far less often since he thinks it would annoy people. A lot of the account’s tweets use the word “man,” which Gruden is known for incorporating into many everyday sentences. “I’ll tell ya what” and “wild” will also appear frequently. Comedian Frank Caliendo created his own Gruden character, with those phrases and Gruden’s patented grimace everyone knows so well defining the bit. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, after spending so much time with his head coach, now uses “man” in his interviews more frequently than before.
“Clearly we spent a lot of time together. I started sounding like him, the way I talk and certain comments I make, which is cool,” Carr said early in training camp. “That’s good. That’s how it should be.”
Greear, a Bengals fan, was excited when former Bengals running back Jeremy Hill followed the account. Then came Johnny Manziel, SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt and future Hall of Fame lineman Joe Thomas (who Greear has DM’d with on the account) and other celebrities. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has liked tweets from the account, too. Joey Gruden, Jon’s nephew and son of Washington head coach Jay Gruden, followed the account, and Greear messaged him to make sure he knew his intention wasn’t to make fun of his uncle. Joey said his whole family loved it.
When Greear attended Wright State, a stranger stopped him on campus and asked if he was Justin. He had recognized Greear from his Twitter profile picture since his personal account is linked in the Gruden parody account bio, and his personal account then said he went to Wright State. The stranger told him he was a big fan of the account.
“I thought it was really cool to be recognized in real life like that,” Greear said.
Greear said 80-90 percent of the tweets come on the fly, with 10-20 percent planned if there’s a big event such as the Super Bowl approaching or a specific player he has a tweet ready for when they score.
One tweet that comes to mind over the rest for Greear is this one:
It's time to get out of the swimming pool. This game of DeMarco Polo is officially over. DeMarco Murray found the Eagles, man. That's wild
— Jon Gruden (@Faux_Gruden) March 12, 2015
Three others that have racked up astronomical numbers more recently include:
I’ll tell ya what, I’m not sure who that number 52 is for Chicago, but that guy can play. That’s the type of player you want on your team, man. I’m going to have to do some research on this guy
— Jon Gruden (@Faux_Gruden) September 10, 2018
Baker Mayfield to the Cleveland Browns. I hope he wears number 13, man. Then he’ll be a Baker’s dozen. Wow. I want some donuts
— Jon Gruden (@Faux_Gruden) April 27, 2018
I’ll tell ya what, watching Patrick Mahomes throw the football is like music to my ears, man. He reminds me of that one West Virginia song. Take Mahomes country road. Wow
— Jon Gruden (@Faux_Gruden) September 16, 2018
“It’s just amazing to me how I can come up with some tweet and think, ‘This is so dumb,’ but within a minute it has 500 or 1,000 retweets,” Greear said. “Just seeing the different NFL players and some celebrities and sports figures pop up in my notifications … These are actual sports figures and celebrities and ESPN anchors that are doing things with my account and retweeting. This is crazy.”
Greear lives outside Dayton, Ohio, coincidentally where Gruden played college football at the University of Dayton. He graduated from Wright State and now works in the marketing department for The Connor Group, which owns 35 luxury apartment communities throughout the country. Greear always watched and played sports, and he’s an avid Bengals, Ohio State and LeBron James fan.
On the side, he enjoys making people laugh, whether that be his fiancé Taylor or a crowd at Wiley’s Comedy Joint in Dayton, where he performed stand-up for the first time in March. That remains the only time Greear has performed — he executed smoothly in his six-minute set as the last act before the headliner — and he hopes to perform once every couple of months in the future now that he knows his humor resonates both in person and online.
“It took a little longer than I wanted to to work up the courage,” Greear said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I was pretty, pretty nervous once I got up there.”
The Raiders visit the Bengals in Week 15, and Greear would love to meet Gruden. Several attempts to ask Gruden about the account this season were unsuccessful, and he might not be in any mood to joke come his Cincinnati trip, either, if the Raiders’ season continues at its current pace.
He’ll still be the same quotable Gruden, though, the lip-curling, grimacing head coach who the words “man” and “wild” will always be associated with. Greear will be right there on his keyboard watching, just trying to make people laugh outside his day job.
“A lot of the replies I get, people saying, ‘Man, I just read this in Gruden’s voice and it’s definitely something he would say,’ ” Greear said. ” … I just love making people laugh on Sundays.”