If you’re tired of the annual Jon Gruden rumors, you’re not alone. But this one is really fun.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported that the Oakland Raiders are preparing to make a run at Gruden to return to coach the team. The team’s offer could be “so strong it could even include an ownership stake in the Raiders.”
Here’s a hurdle: The Raiders have a coach.
The language of the news report was careful, indicating that Gruden would be tempted but he wants to wait until there’s a final determination on coach Jack Del Rio. Whoever leaked the news also wanted to get that message out there because it’s a serious faux pas for coaches to be talking to teams about jobs when they’re not officially open. However, Del Rio’s future as Raiders coach has been uncertain as the team fell out of the playoff race.
We’ve all been inundated with Gruden rumors for years (they’re so prevalent they just go by the “grumors” shorthand now), so we’ll see. Gruden has a great job at ESPN, where he makes a lot of money and doesn’t have the stress of coaching. Until Gruden returns, you’re right to be skeptical. However, Gruden made strong comments this year to Pewter Report that he wanted to coach again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed like a great fit, but the team decided to retain Dirk Koetter for 2018. Then the Raiders rumor/grumor came from out of the blue.
Del Rio’s job security has been a regular story in the second half of the season, as the Raiders slumped and failed to make the playoffs. Gruden, of course, was once the Raiders’ coach but was traded to the Buccaneers in one of the most famous deals in NFL history. Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, beating the Raiders, and Oakland didn’t make the playoffs between that Super Bowl loss and last season. Raiders owner Mark Davis, who took over the team when his father Al died, might want to make up for that regrettable move in the team’s history.
Gruden would inherit a team that went 12-4 last season, has a good young quarterback in Derek Carr in place, and the ESPN report said he could “reshape the front office, coaching staff and entire organization.” It has to be a tempting offer, especially considering his history with the team and the new start that’s coming in Las Vegas, where the Raiders are moving in a few years when the stadium is ready.
ESPN, which reported the story and also employs Gruden, had a comment from him.
“I don’t want to sit here and speculate. … There is no news to report,” Gruden said Saturday, according to ESPN’s report. “I can’t say I haven’t taken any phone calls. I take a lot every year from coaches, some others. … Yeah, sometimes owners. Guys want to bounce ideas off me. I’m here to help people.”
That definitely doesn’t seem like a denial.
Gruden has become a visible figure on “Monday Night Football.” But it would be a great story if he came back to coach the Raiders. And, if nothing else, we’d finally be done with the constant speculation about his return.
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