Posted on December 31, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
When the NFL coaching carousel begins 24 hours from now, the Oakland Raiders are expected to make a push for current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. It’s already been reported that Gruden has looked into a return to coaching. However, it’s believed that his preference would be to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But with the Bucs expected to retain Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay is not an option while the Raiders could be a nice fallback for Gruden.
Gruden spent four years as head coach of the Raiders from 1998 to 2001. During that time, he led the Raiders to a 38-26 record and two AFC West titles. According to sources close to Gruden, if the Raiders offered him the head coaching job, he would be tempted to take it.
If Gruden needs any extra convincing, Raiders owner Mark Davis could offer Gruden an ownership share of the team. According to a source, Davis has always had “an affinity” for Gruden and has offered Gruden part ownership of the team in the past. It could be tough for Gruden to turn down such an offer if Davis makes it again. Aside from becoming a part owner of the team, the Raiders have an enticing roster and one of the best young quarterbacks in David Carr.
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The Raiders will miss the playoffs this year. But they are just one year removed from a 12-4 season. Gruden may see them as a team with whom he can have instant success. That being said, Gruden is declining to comment on a potential return to coaching until after the season.
“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.”
Of course, the Raiders still have a head coach in Jack Del Rio. In three seasons, Del Rio is 25-22 as head coach of the Raiders. He’s the one who led them to the playoffs last season. With Carr battling a back injury for much of the season, Del Rio is not entirely to blame for Oakland finishing with a losing record this season.
Perhaps more importantly, Del Rio just signed a four-year extension with the Raiders in February. It wouldn’t make sense for the Raiders to give Del Rio an extension only to dump him less than a year later. In addition to paying for Del Rio’s buyout, there’s also the matter of Gruden’s buyout from ESPN. Gruden signed an extension three years ago and has a contract that runs through the 2021 season. Gruden and Del Rio also have the same agent, so there are a lot of issues to work through to make a Del Rio for Gruden swap happen.
At this point, it’s tough to tell how this situation may be resolved. There are definitely grumblings that Gruden would like to return to coaching. There’s also little doubt that the Raiders want him back. But whether Oakland will dump Del Rio and then make Gruden an offer he can’t refuse remains to be seen.