Trader’s remorse? The Oakland Raiders reportedly want Jon Gruden, the coach they traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, so badly that they are pursuing the ESPN analyst with an offer that includes an ownership stake in the team.
Gruden, who won a Super Bowl after that trade to Tampa Bay, has been in the “Monday Night Football” booth since 2008, but every year rumors of his return to the field intensify as coaching openings crop up around the league. This season, most of that buzz centered on Tampa, where he still lives. However, over the weekend, reports surfaced that the team would retain Dirk Koetter and ESPN reported the development with the Raiders.
Gruden, according to the network, hopes to postpone a decision until after the 6-9 team finishes its disappointing regular season. Jack Del Rio, the team’s coach, was signed to a contract extension over the summer, but the Raiders, expected to be contenders in the AFC West, are instead mired in third place. Oakland has a lot going for it, according to ESPN. Gruden is high on quarterback Derek Carr and would not have to pay state tax after the team moves to Las Vegas in 2020.
The Raiders traded Gruden to Tampa Bay for four draft picks — two first-rounders and two second-rounders — and $8 million in 2002, a shocking move at the time. “You never try to get too surprised in this business, but this certainly was surprising,” Gruden said then, and went on to sign a five-year deal with the Bucs that more than tripled his salary in Oakland.
After winning a Super Bowl, he headed for the booth, where he worked with Mike Tirico. Since then, he reportedly has not meshed well with Sean McDonough and, at 54, is ready to coach again, conceivably alongside his son, Deuce, a Redskins strength coach. However, an ownership stake would require the approval of the other owners in the league and they may be reluctant to approve it because of the precedent it would set. The finance committee would also have to sign off after vetting his finances.
Gruden had little to say to ESPN about a return to 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.”
These Grumors crop up all the time and, typically, Gruden shoots them down after a day or two of helping fan the flames. As long ago as late July, he admitted to Pewter Report that he had met with “several people.”
“Just about every year, I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day,” he said. “I’m preparing to come back.
“It helps me in my broadcasting, and I think if you lose that edge . . . you can’t come back unless you are totally wired with college football, personnel, schemes, the CBA, how people are practicing, trends, you know. You’ve got to stay on top of this stuff.”
Whether that’s in the booth or on the sideline.
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