Gruden, the restaurant said, was with no less a personage in Knoxville than Peyton Manning, the Volunteers’ former quarterback and requested “privacy” as the two met at the restaurant’s location. Alas, this Grumor was served up severely undercooked.
“Tonight we received word from our management team that Jon Gruden was dining at our restaurant with Peyton Manning. We got excited. We posted something about it. Afterwards, a staff member notified us that they weren’t so sure it was him. This is all we know at this moment. We apologize for the misunderstanding.”
ESPN’s Bill Hofheimer, who oversees the network’s broadcasts of “MNF” and pro sports, clarified that Gruden is, indeed, “2,500 miles away from Calhoun’s … in Seattle, prepping for #MNF.”
While that item has been put to rest (as much as any Grumor can be), there’s the possibility that an NFL opening could lure Gruden out of the booth. At least one longtime Tampa sportswriter thinks he could return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if Dirk Koetter were to be fired.
“I think Koetter’s got seven weeks to prove that this team is still buying what he’s selling,” Ira Kaufman told PFT Live last week. “The stands are half empty, and there’s a guy out there that has a lot of juice and can fill those stands . . . I’m starting to believe it for the first time, that Gruden’s coming back.”
Gruden, according to Kaufman, would prefer the NFL if he were to coach again. And it’s not much of a secret that he and Sean McDonough don’t have the same chemistry in the booth that Gruden had with Mike Tirico. Gruden also happens to live in the Tampa area and, according to Kaufman, he has high regard for Jameis Winston. There’s also the chance he could coach with his son, Deuce, a strength coach on Jay Gruden’s Redskins staff.
Gruden addressed the talk, which typically sprouts around Thanksgiving, in an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show,” saying, “One of these days, you never know … I have talked to people [about jobs] in years past and I plan on just keeping my options open. … If something comes along down the road, I’ll take a look at it.”
So, keep an eye on those Tampa restaurants. A guy’s gotta eat.