For the past several seasons, former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden has been a trendy name to mention whenever an NFL head coaching job comes vacant. And Gruden’s name was tossed around as a potential candidate for the Tennessee Volunteers head coaching gig earlier this year after the firing of Butch Jones.
But this year, it seems like there’s more smoke than usual around Gruden, and where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. An article from ESPN.com published Saturday night by Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen says that the Raiders are preparing to pursue Gruden with a strong offer to become their head coach, and that this offer could even include an ownership stake.
While Mortensen and Schefter are not known for posting speculation or nonsense, they do only credit “league sources” and do not provide any indication where they got this information from. They have certainly earned enough credibility over the years that this story should be taken seriously regardless.
Gruden would, according to these sources, prefer to wait to make a decision on the Raiders once the regular season has ended and the team has made a final determination regarding the fate of current head coach Jack Del Rio, who signed a contract extension quite recently.
“I don’t want to sit here and speculate,” said Gruden on Saturday. “There is no news to report.”
While this looks like a straightforward statement from Gruden, it isn’t, because this is exactly the sort of thing every football coach says right before he takes a new job.
A year ago and I’d have said this was nonsense, that Jack Del Rio isn’t going anywhere and Gruden should just stay in the booth with his cushy ESPN job. But this season, Del Rio has fallen out of the good graces of many Raider fans, and ESPN has been laying off people left and right. We know Mark Davis loves Jon Gruden, so maybe now is the right time to bring Chucky back to the Silver and Black.
The real question I have is, what would be the fate of GM Reggie McKenzie if Gruden were to be hired on as head coach? Would he want to make personnel decisions and, if so, would recent NFL Executive of the Year McKenzie be cut loose as well to make room? If that were to happen, would that be beneficial to the Raiders? Bill Belichick has that situation in New England, and that works well for them, but I have my doubts that Gruden is quite on Belichick’s level.
Many around the league are of the belief that this year, unlike previous years, will be the one where a team (meaning the Raiders) will finally make an offer to Gruden that will simply be too good for him to pass up. The Raiders will certainly want to make a big public relations splash prior to their move to Las Vegas, and Gruden would fit that bill.