Ever since Jon Gruden made the decision to leave a run of mediocrity with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to bless us with years of viral clips on Monday Night Football, our winters have been filled with Grumors of his return to the sideline.
The Grumors always followed a similar pattern: An enticing job with a notable team would come up in either the NFL or collegiate ranks; Gruden would then have his name attached to said job, either by fans (Tennessee Vols) or overzealous media citing tenuous sources; ESPN would then pay Gruden more money; and that would be that.
For the past few years, the Grumors have been getting significantly hotter. At the same time, Gruden’s high salary from years of leveraging an NFL return in his contract negotiations with ESPN has now become a lot more expensive for the network in the face of a changing cable market.
Now, with the Oakland Raiders interested in Gruden after the firing of Jack Del Rio by owner Mark Davis it appears the time has finally come for Gruden to make his NFL return.
The minute the news Del Rio was dismissed by Davis, Gruden was thrust to the front of the discussion. After all, the Raiders were allegedly interested in Gruden prior to the Del Rio hire and things never materialized for Davis to bring him out of the MNF booth back in 2015.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter went on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt and claimed Gruden will be the next coach of the Raiders. Schefter cited the many attempts Davis has made to bring Gruden back to the franchise since taking over from his late father, Al Davis, and Gruden’s affinity for the Raiders as the aligning factors.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 1, 2018
It was always going to take a perfect storm to bring Jon Gruden out of a cushy job providing color commentary for Monday Night Football, and back into the pressured grind of NFL head coaching.
The Raiders provide that perfect storm for Gruden at exactly the right time.
ESPN has aggressively cut costs in the past year, and Gruden is the network’s highest-paid personality. Meanwhile, after multiple attempts to pursue Gruden with last-place teams, Mark Davis finally has a roster worthy of Gruden and enticing enough to bring him back to the sideline. The Raiders had a disappointing 6-10 follow up to their playoff appearance in the 2016 season, but are loaded with pieces that Gruden has gushed over in the past that could be cornerstones of a Super Bowl team.
Derek Carr’s stock has dropped, but is still a young quarterback who will be Gruden’s best talent at the position since Rich Gannon. Former first-round wideout Amari Cooper’s stock also fell in 2017 despite his own potential as a franchise pillar.
It will be Gruden’s task to bring out the potential of the likes of Carr and Cooper to revitalize the Raiders offense to get the most out of a team that underperformed mightily under Jack Del Rio. The jury is out on if Gruden will be capable of living up to the high expectations that Del Rio failed to live up to with a Raiders roster that was expected to be a contender in the AFC West.
Gruden’s last stint in Tampa Bay was incredibly mediocre by the end of his stay, despite winning a Super Bowl in his first season. An organization with the best defense in football when Gruden arrived slowly morphed into a middle of the pack bunch by the time Gruden left for the MNF booth.
Gruden’s medicore time in Tampa has to be a concern for Davis and the Raiders as the head towards a reunion with Gruden. However, it appears Davis is making this move with Silver and Black tinted glasses as he yearns to bring back the memories of the Raiders last successful era by hiring its architect.
Nobody truly knows how the Gruden 2.0 era in Oakland will go once it inevitably is announced. What we do know is the Raiders and Gruden are the perfect marriage to bring back the iconic coach to his beloved sideline at the Oakland Coliseum for one last ride.
John Madden was beloved by Al Davis and never came back to the sideline from the booth once he made his decision. What we will see with Jon Gruden in Oakland will be special next season as Mark Davis finally has the coach he has been chasing ever since he took over his dad’s team in what will be the NFL’s biggest head coaching storyline of 2018.