To most of us, it’s a foregone conclusion that Jon Gruden will return to coaching, and will do it with the Oakland Raiders.
But Gruden is still playing coy, at least publicly, perhaps because he’s still committed to broadcast the Tennessee TItans-Kansas City Chiefs wildcard game this weekend with ESPN, where he’s been for nine years and is the network’s highest-paid on-air personality, making about $6.5 million annually (as of 2015).
But there have been reports for days that Gruden is lining up a staff, targeting coaches he’d like to join him in Oakland, and there’s seemingly been no question that Raiders owner Mark Davis fired Jack Del Rio specifically to hire Gruden back to the team he led from 1998-2001.
On Wednesday, he phoned in to ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo” radio show to discuss whether or not he’ll cease being their co-workers in the near future.
Asked if he will be the Raiders’ coach, Gruden said, “Well, that’s up to Mark Davis. I have had conversations with Mark and they’re, I believe, still going through the interview process. When he knows, I think we’ll all know. I appreciate [ESPN reporters Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen’s] confidence that I have a chance of getting that job, that’s awfully nice of them.”
Asked if Davis did call and offer him the job after doing other interviews (for the record, there have been no reports of the Raiders requesting to interview coaches on other teams for the position) whether he’d accept, Gruden essentially confirmed that he would.
“I think there’s a good chance. I’m excited about where I am in terms of studying the game and preparing to come back and coach, I just don’t want to sit here and speculate,” he said. “It’s almost like – I don’t know what’s going to happen, I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s been a long couple of weeks, I know they’ve gone through their process of interviewing candidates and until they’re done I won’t know, but I did have a good meeting with Mark, I’ve known him a long time and got a lot of respect for the Raider football organization.”
(Again, we’re not sure who else the Raiders have interviewed, at least not for head coach; there’s no record anywhere that they have, or requested candidates currently with other teams.)
As to the ESPN report that he’d been offered an ownership stake as part of his compensation package to return, Gruden shot it down.
“There’s no truth to that at all,” he said. “There’s no validity to that at all. None. Zero. No ownership, that’s for sure.”
Call us crazy, but don’t be surprised if Gruden signs off after the conclusion of the Titans-Chiefs game on Saturday by thanking ESPN for
their money the opportunity and announcing that he’s starting his new gig with Oakland on Sunday.
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