An entertaining story about former University of Utah lineman Jordan Gross recently re-circulated around the internet, and it’s worth a read.
The premise: Gross cost the Carolina Panthers a Super Bowl championship.
The reason: As a rookie, the starting right tackle defied a veteran’s orders and did not buy a cappuccino machine for the offensive linemen’s meeting room.
Gross was fine with buying his elders Mexican food — even if he’d get grief when the coveted black salsa was missing from the order — but he drew the line when two-time Pro Bowl lineman Todd Steussie ordered him to drop everything and buy the coffeemaker.
“That’s when I said, ‘I draw the line here.’ This is unnecessary, and I’m not going to let any veteran take advantage of me,” Gross told a Boston NPR host during an "Only a Game" radio program.
“I told him, ‘Uhh, let me think about it.’ And that made him mad because he wanted an immediate ‘Yes.’”
WBUR host Bill Littlefield humorously referred to the incident as “The Great Cappuccino Machine Conundrum,” which actually caused a riff in the Panthers’ locker room. Not surprisingly, some veterans sided with Steussie, but there were others, including 10-year veteran lineman Kevin Donnalley, who backed Gross’s decision to stand up for himself as a rookie.
Littlefield asked the three-time Pro Bowler how that worked out.
"Well,” Gross said, “it got worked out by me never buying the cappuccino machine, Todd being mad for weeks and weeks and weeks that I didn’t do it, and Kevin earning a whole lot of respect from me for backing me up.”
“Well, that’s all fine and good,” Littlefield responded, “but you tore the team apart.”
Gross laughed at the tongue-in-cheek accusation.
“I did,” Gross said. “I tore the lads apart. I did.”
(Earlier in the interview, Gross told Littlefield that he hadn’t used the word “lads” as the host suggested he might have, saying, “I don’t think I ever said, ‘I’m one of the lads,’ but I know what you mean.” The former Ute’s reference to that word later in the interview was in fun.)
Even though there were mixed feelings about whether or not Gross should have caved to the coffee demand, Carolina still managed to have a strong season in 2003. The Curse of the Unpurchased Cappuccino Machine, as Littlefield referred to it, reared its ugly head in Super Bowl XXXVIII when the Panthers lost to New England, 32-29.
If only Gross had subjected himself to his superiors.
“Well, of course. Of course we would’ve won," Gross said, laughing. “But the way it was now, there was disgruntled veterans that were lacking in energy, and it was just enough to lose by three points to the Patriots.”
Gross, proud that he’d held his ground, changed his tune later in his career. Get this: Teammates eventually called him “The Barista” after he made a belated coffee maker purchase and memorized the way they liked their brew.
This radio interview even included a segment when Gross gave Steussie a call to make amends.
(The story and interview are both online at WBUR: http://www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2016/10/07/jordan-gross-rookie-handbook)