If you have a football-coaching job open, there's a good chance some dimwit has started a rumor that Jon Gruden is atop the team's coaching wishlist or that Gruden would be "willing to listen" to their offer.
The only entities who lose (and win) in this deal are ESPN and Disney, who keep writing checks to Gruden to stay at the mothership. He signed a five-year extension in 2011 (rumored to include a salary north of $4 million annually) and recently said he plans to stay with the network for the 2014 season.
But if there's one team — with actual Gruden connections — we can't immediately dismiss, it might be the Oakland Raiders.
Gruden's former quarterback, Rich Gannon, seemed to suggest in a recent radio interview with 95.7 The Game radio in San Francisco, that a return to Oakland for Gruden wouldn't be a totally crazy notion.
“I’ve had conversations with Jon in the past,” Gannon said. “I don't think it's outside the realm of possibilities.”
Still, Gannon pumped the brakes on any immediate connection there, perhaps largely because Dennis Allen is still the Raiders' head coach and that (until the past month or so, anyway) he appeared to be on safe ground. Now? Allen might be a little shaky, but Gannon wasn't about to kick any dirt on his yet-to-be-dug grave. This was more about the possibility of Gruden leaving his comfortable TV gig and possibly returning to coaching.
“I know that he still has the desire to get back and do it at some point,” Gannon said. “I don’t know when. I don’t know where. But I know this, that he had two bad experiences as a head coach with some owners that he just had a tough time with.
"And you know I think it’s pretty clear that he didn’t necessarily see eye to eye with [Al] Davis ... and I think he wants to go somewhere where he’s got an owner that’s not gonna, you know, try and pick the roster and try and call the plays, and just a guy that he can just come in and work for and hire a staff and get the thing turned around.”
Gruden initially did not want to leave the Raiders, whom he coached from 1998 to 2001, but he butted heads with Davis and eventually was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (before coaching trades later were outlawed), whom he coached to a Super Bowl title in his first season there.
If he came back, Raiders fans would love this, of course, as most of them never wanted to see him go in the first place. Gruden was welcomed back with open arms when the team brought him in to light the Davis torch last season, and the team hasn't had a winning season since the year following his departure.
But the talk of Gruden returning to Oakland is not brand new. Following Davis' death in the fall of 2011, there has been talk of him returning to the team in various formats. One widely misreported story came from Pro Football Weekly in which an anonymous NFL source told PFW that he could see Gruden returning to coaching there, or perhaps in some sort of bigger role that could include a more grandiose title, even though those talks never materialized. That latter part was swept under the the rug, and the Raiders vehemently denied the rumors and stood behind Allen last year.
Are these Gruden-to-Oakland talks dead? Who knows? Gruden has remained mostly mum about specific openings for years every time his name gets mentioned, and he has remained resolute in his standing with ESPN. But the Raiders could be the dark-horse team to watch if Gruden does consider returning to the NFL.
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