Here we go again. With only a week to go in the NFL’s regular season, those Grumors, the ones about Jon Gruden leaving the ESPN “Monday Night Football” booth to return to coaching, are heating up again.
This time, Gruden is reportedly reaching out to possible assistant coaches, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Gruden’s preferred landing spot is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with which he won a Super Bowl.
“As it’s being explained to me, this year may actually be different,” Rapoport said Sunday morning. “Gruden right now is going through the process of reaching out to for former assistants and friends in the coaching industry just to see if they would be available, if they would potentially come with him if he were be able to get a head coaching job.
“And of course the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do have Dirk Koetter on the hot seat – that would be (Gruden’s) preferred destination. The Bucs have often swung big. They’d have to give up a lot of money to outbid ESPN and pay Gruden what he would want – something that would be worth it to come back to coaching. As a source close to him told me, this year may actually different.”
These rumors crop up all the time and, typically, Gruden shoots them down after a day or two of helping fan the flames. Now, though, at least one longtime Tampa sportswriter thinks a return to coaching is not out of the question. At 54, Gruden may be looking at a now-or-never situation after being out of coaching since 2008.
“I think Koetter’s got seven weeks to prove that this team is still buying what he’s selling,” Ira Kaufman told PFT Live last month. “The stands are half empty, and there’s a guy out there that has a lot of juice and can fill those stands … I’m starting to believe it for the first time, that Gruden’s coming back.”
Gruden, according to Kaufman, would prefer the NFL if he is to coach again. The other issue is that Gruden and Sean McDonough don’t have the same chemistry in the booth that Gruden had with Mike Tirico. Gruden also happens to live in the Tampa area and, according to Kaufman, he has high regard for Jameis Winston. There’s also the chance that he could hire his son, Deuce, a strength coach on his brother Jay Gruden’s Redskins staff.
Gruden addressed the talk, which typically sprouts around Thanksgiving, in an appearance in early November on “The Rich Eisen Show,” saying, “One of these days, you never know … I have talked to people (about jobs) in years past and I plan on just keeping my options open. … If something comes along down the road, I’ll take a look at it.”
In late July, he admitted to Pewter Report that he had met with “several people.”
“People – just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day,” he said. “I’m preparing to come back.
“It helps me in my broadcasting and I think if you lose that edge … you can’t come back unless you are totally wired with college football, personnel, schemes, the CBA, how people are practicing, trends, you know. You’ve got to stay on top of this stuff.”
Whether that’s in the booth or on the sideline remains to be seen.