Jon Gruden has been one the nation's most sought-after football coaches ever since his departure from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009.
He's a Super Bowl champion who could undoubtedly bring success to any program searching for a new head coach. Gruden has been hesitant to return to coaching in recent years, but according to speculation from NFL.com (h/t Walter Football), he may be looking to get back into his old profession.
University of Tennessee fans have created a Facebook page, making it clear they support the idea of Gruden as a Volunteer. While a fan page is certainly not a credible rumor source, Wes Rucker of GVX247.com is adding to the Tennessee speculation with a recent tweet:
REMINDER: Last time Vols had an opening, Jon Gruden was contacted. He was very interested. Money wasn't close.
— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) October 25, 2012
CBS Philadelphia also reported speculation surrounding Gruden and the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. CBS relays a quote from 94WIP’s Howard Eskin:
Well, here’s what I’ve heard, and that’s why I put it out there yesterday: Jon Gruden, definitely, positively, wants to coach again. He’s got the itch. One of the reasons, well, he enjoyed doing what he did for ESPN. But one of the other reasons is his son was in school, this is his senior year. His son would be done, so he doesn’t have to worry about going to see his games and he’s ready. He’s a football coach and he wants to coach again. That’s the first part of what I know. You just don’t throw it out there, ‘Oh, it’s Jon Gruden coming back.’
This begs an interesting question: Is Gruden better off staying in the NFL where he has already been successful, or should he attempt to prove himself at the college level? Both options have several benefits and drawbacks.
Let's take a look at the current state of both the Eagles and Volunteers, which currently appear to be Gruden's most attractive destinations, and discuss how Gruden would fit into each situation.
Despite their immense speed and overall talent, the Eagles have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL so far through 2012. Their 3-5 record has them 2.5 games behind the New York Giants for the lead in the NFC East.
Barring an unforeseen turnaround, the Eagles will have a new head coach in 2013.
As constructed, the Eagles do not have the personnel to run Jon Gruden's West Coast offense, which is based on throwing short passes and making precision throws on timing routes. The Eagles are designed to make big plays down the field with their small, speedy receivers.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have never been known to be possession receivers over the middle of the field.
Furthermore, the West Coast offense has failed Philadelphia already this season.
Andy Reid has been running a variation of the West Coast offense with inadequate personnel for the entire Michael Vick era in Philly. Vick has never been known to be one to take a three-step drop and fire a short, accurate pass to a receiver over the middle. Not only would this strategy limit his athleticism, it would force him to play outside of his skill set.
Gruden is a former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, so it makes sense that this is a likely destination. However, Gruden and Reid come from the same coaching tree. They run similar offensive schemes, and the likelihood of a Gruden-run offense performing any differently than Reid's is minimal.
Maybe Gruden's no-nonsense style is exactly what the Eagles need. However, for Gruden to be successful in Philly, he will need a new quarterback, at least one possession receiver, a healthy offensive line and a plan for getting LeSean McCoy more involved in the offense. It's not impossible, but hiring Jon Gruden would not end all of Philadelphia's issues.
Gruden has never been a college head coach. Becoming the head coach at Tennessee would be completely uncharted territory for him. That said, Jon Gruden is not the type of person to back down from a challenge.
If Gruden were to take the job at Tennessee, he would more than likely run a spread-option offense. He's already expressed an interest in learning the spread option from Chip Kelly at Oregon, and the two even spent a week together after Gruden was fired from Tampa Bay.
As long as Gruden recruits the right personnel, he can be successful running a spread-option offense. Any good coach will tailor his scheme to the players on his roster, and Gruden will more than likely have to wait a few years if he wants to truly have a dominant spread-option offense like Oregon or even Ohio State.
However, Gruden would be a big-name coach at an SEC school. He would have the ability to get blue-chip recruits to come play for him and be successful. It's a matter of whether he would ditch the professional ranks to become a college coach.
Where would John Gruden be a better fit?
If the Philadelphia Eagles coaching job opens up, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Jon Gruden passes up an opportunity to coach them. He's already coached there, and it's important to remember that Gruden was fired from his last job in the NFL. He still has a lot to prove if he wants to be considered one of the better NFL coaches ever.
However, Gruden would undoubtedly be able to have success in the SEC. Tennessee has been a mess for the better part of a decade. However, given time to get the right recruits in place, Jon Gruden would be able to have success.