Gruden Has An Eagle Eye On Returning To Coaching

The morning after the Saints’ win over the Eagles on “Monday Night Football,” Eagles fans greeted ESPN analyst Jon Gruden at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, imploring him to resume his coaching career in Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Crossing Broad.)

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I reported on a possible link to Jon Gruden for the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee’s college football team, should the position become available?

Well, there’s a new rumor starting to circulate, one involving an NFL team – and this one is beginning to grow hair.

Or, if you prefer, Eagle fur.

Because the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching gig may very well be vacant, should the team finish below .500 this season.

Currently, Gruden is the Hutch to Mike Tirico’s Starsky on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” But he’d be open to resuming his coaching career, should the perfect scenario become available.

And for Gruden, who served as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator for three years before starting his head coaching tenure in Oakland, and later winning the Super Bowl in his first year leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the situation couldn’t be more perfect.

And there are a couple of reports to back this up. First, there’s word that Gruden is “looking into different assistant coaches around the league” and inquiring if they’ll be free at the end of the year. This according to Charlie Campbell at WalterFootball.com. Chances are, you’ve never heard of the website, but put your skepticism aside, because NFL.com says Campbell is a reputable source.

Campbell adds that while Gruden appears to possess “more motivation” to return to the NFL sidelines next year, he is not interested in open head coaching positions on “small market teams” (read: Tampa Bay, Oakland, or St. Louis, where rumors late last year saw Gruden assuming the head coaching vacancy on the Rams, now filled by Jeff Fisher).

In other words, the only way he’ll leave the ESPN booth is if a head coaching position on a large-market NFL team is appealing enough for him to hop aboard.

Otherwise, he’s “perfectly happy” remaining as the Keller to Tirico’s Stone. (Did I use that reference already?)

The second report actually comes in tweet form from Howard Eskin, a longtime afternoon drive host on WIP radio in Philadelphia, who is currently the main sports anchor at Philly’s WTXF/”Fox 29.” Also an in-game reporter during Eagles radio broadcasts, Eskin has close ties with the team – and he’s got a feeling that Chucky might be lurking soon.

“Sources tell me he wants to coach again,” Eskin tweeted regarding Gruden. He also implied that, should the Eagles fire Andy Reid, virtually anybody would be a shoo-in for the head coaching job, as opposed to current offensive coordinator Todd Bowles or defensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, both of whom Eskin dubbed “weak.”

Among the assistant coaches Gruden reportedly has in mind to join him in Philly: recently fired offensive/defensive/offensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who was an assistant to Gruden during his previous stint with the team (1995-97). He’s also watching the situation in San Diego, as the underachieving Chargers may finally pull the trigger on their head coach, Norv Turner – though Gruden’s only concerned with the team’s assistant head coach, Rich Bisaccia, who oversaw special teams under Gruden’s watch in Tampa Bay.

Gruden may have several major-market teams to choose from at the start of 2013. The Dallas Cowboys recently gave Jason Garrett a vote of confidence (which is the equivalent of Michael Fabiano giving you waiver wire suggestions for your fantasy team). Perhaps the Minnesota Vikings could part ways with Leslie Frazier (remember, Minneapolis is a top-ten market). There could also possibly be a head coaching vacancy in New York, at the expense of Rex Ryan (recently voted the most overrated coach in the league) of the Jets, or even the Giants’ Tom Coughlin (hey, stranger things have happened).

But it would make perfect sense for him to end up at Lincoln Financial Field (or as Michael Lombardi recently called it, Franklin Field) and a team with stable ownership and notable talent in the Eagles.

Then, the search is on for Jon Gruden’s successor at ESPN.

Might we suggest… This guy? Right here?

Will Jon Gruden "Volunteer" To Leave ESPN?

Mike Tirico shouldn’t be surprised if his “Monday Night Football” colleague Jon Gruden bolts the booth to be a head coach again. The latest rumor du jour: he’s the perfect fit for the Tennessee Volunteers.

It’s a given that Jon Gruden’s current profession of “Monday Night Football” analyst is a temporary job. Everybody knows that, no matter how comfortable or in the groove he may be in the “MNF” booth for four seasons, coaching is his true calling.

He was a beloved figure in Tampa Bay after winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers. Since his departure from the team, sellouts at Raymond James Stadium have been hard to come by.

And as long as he’s still biding his time alongside Mike Tirico for sixteen Mondays a year, his name will still be circulated when NFL teams are hiring. You may recall strong rumors suggesting Gruden would become the next coach of the St. Louis Rams (that job went to Jeff Fisher).

But could he entertain the thought of being the head coach of a college football team?

There’s a persuasive piece written by Nashville sports radio host Clay Travis that suggests why Gruden might become the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, should the team part ways with Derek Dooley, who is in his fourth season as Vols head coach.

Among the main factors of Gruden possibly coaching in Tennessee: His name recognition would put fannies in the seats, the current roster is not in a rebuilding phase, and, quoting Travis: “This guy would kill in recruiting.”

As Travis also points out, Gruden’s wife, Cindy, is from East Tennessee and is a University of Tennessee alumnus.

And if it doesn’t work out?

“He can always go back to television.”

Travis cites Gruden’s passion for “breaking down film” and “interacting with players” as part of his desire to resume his coaching career. “Gruden is just 49 years old,” Travis writes. “is he really going to be a television lifer like John Madden?”

Predictably, there’s been plenty of on-air recruiting of Jon Gruden on Travis’ radio station, WGFX/104.5 The Zone. Just today, Erin Andrews, in her weekly spot on the station, was asked what she thought of a possible Gruden hire at Tennessee. “He’s not going to leave ESPN,” she was quoted as saying. (Of course, Andrews herself left ESPN.)

If you want to enlighten yourself with Clay Travis’ 1500-word manifesto on why Jon Gruden should even fathom leaving the confines of Bristol for the fields of Rocky Top, click here.