ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen report that the Raiders are “preparing to pursue” Jon Gruden as head coach with an offer “so strong,” it could even include an ownership stake in the team.
While it’s hard to take the #Grumors seriously these days, sources have told Schefter and Mortensen that Gruden will actually be “tempted to accept” the Raiders’ offer. And it’s of course notable that these are two very plugged-in reporters that happen to work for the same network Gruden does.
Here’s more from the ESPN report, including reasons Gruden, 54, may be interested in going back to the Raiders (he was the head coach there from 1998-2001):
Gruden will be tempted to accept it, according to sources, but would prefer not to make any decisions until the regular season finishes Sunday and the Raiders make a final determination on their current head coach, Jack Del Rio, who signed a contract extension last summer.
But Oakland long has appealed to Gruden for a variety of reasons. He would return to an organization he didn’t want to leave in 2001; he would inherit a young quarterback in Derek Carr whom he feels strongly about; and he would get to coach a team that is slated to move in 2020 to Las Vegas, where he would not have to pay state tax, as he does now in Florida, where he currently lives. Gruden’s contract even could be backloaded to pay him more in the Nevada years of the deal and lessen his tax burden during the California years.
But this time, Gruden would be given enough power in Oakland to be able to reshape the front office, coaching staff and entire organization, though there still are some holdovers from when he coached there.
And here’s what Gruden told ESPN on Saturday about the Raiders rumors:
Gruden declined to specifically comment about the Raiders.
“I don’t want to sit here and speculate. … There is no news to report,” Gruden said Saturday. “I can’t say I haven’t taken any phone calls. I take a lot every year from coaches, some others. … Yeah, sometimes owners. Guys want to bounce ideas off me. I’m here to help people.”
Now, Jack Del Rio is still the Raiders’ head coach, and was signed to a contract extension in February after leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record in 2016. Additionally, Gruden has the same agent — Bob LaMonte — Del Rio does, and it’s easy to see how that could create an awkward situation.
However, the Raiders — a trendy Super Bowl pick entering the season — have been one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments this season with a (not nice) 6-9 record. And a source told Schefter and Mortensen that Raiders owner Mark Davis “has an affinity” for Gruden:
Another source close to the situation said Mark Davis always has held Gruden in high regard, from the time he coached Oakland from 1998-2001, until long after the time that Davis’s father, Al, traded Gruden to Tampa. Gruden was in the booth for his final Monday Night Football game of the season last week in Philadelphia, when the Eagles hosted Davis’ Raiders.
“The owner,” one source said about Davis, “has an affinity for him.”
It was recently reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were Gruden’s preferred destination if he returned to coaching; Gruden was Tampa Bay’s coach from 2002-2008 and won the Super Bowl in his first season with the team. But Schefter reported on Friday that Dirk Koetter would be returning as head coach for the Bucs in 2018, which would obviously mean Gruden isn’t going there. And there were the wacky rumors of Gruden going to Tennessee, which even involved a Knoxville BBQ joint apologizing for contributing to the rumors.
Every year we get these Gruden coaching rumors, and every year — since 2009 — he’s ended up in the Monday Night Football booth for ESPN. And it’s easy to understand why he keeps going back to ESPN. He’s making $6.5 million annually to talk about football, and not have the crazy stress that comes with being an NFL head coach.
So, it’s natural to remain skeptical about Gruden leaving ESPN, but this Raiders rumor is certainly an interesting one. With Black Monday just two days away, we should at least find out Del Rio’s 2018 status with the Raiders soon.
UPDATE: Jon Gruden and Mark Davis responding to the rumors on Saturday night:
Just got off the phone with Jon Gruden about ESPN report. He said, "C'mon man. I'm out with my wife. This is crazy. I was supposed to be going to Tampa last week . . . I've got nothing to report."
— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) December 31, 2017
Just ran into Raiders owner Mark Davis. Asked directly about about ESPN report re: interest in Jon Gruden. He played coy. Said focus is on winning next game. Asked about Del Rio’s job status. Wouldn’t touch it. Asked again about Gruden report: “these rumors come about every year”
— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) December 31, 2017
UPDATE II: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is hearing that Gruden’s annual salary with the Raiders would be over $10 million.
Rapoport reported that Oakland intends to offer Gruden an annual salary of over $10 million and an ownership stake in the team.