Amid speculation that he could be a candidate for the now-vacated Houston Texans job, former Super Bowl-winning head coach Jon Gruden has reportedly ruled out a return to the sidelines for 2014 and will stay with ESPN's Monday Night Football.
Gruden himself has not confirmed his commitment to ESPN, but the report was first given on an awfully good source: Sunday NFL Countdown. ESPN's Chris Mortensen came on the air Sunday to deliver the news, which Robert Flores sent out to his Twitter feed:
Gruden has been with ESPN as a Monday Night Football analyst alongside Mike Tirico since 2009—just months after he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since then, Gruden, 50, has slowly developed into an integral cog of the network's NFL coverage. He has worked college football bowl games, taken over as the lone analyst in the booth after the departure of Ron Jaworski and has his own television special, QB Camp, where he studies film with NFL draft prospects.
Nevertheless, with patience running lower than ever within NFL front offices, Gruden's name has continuously come up in coaching vacancies. USC athletic director Pat Haden acknowledged that he contacted Gruden about the Trojans' vacancy before hiring Steve Sarkisian, but the conversation ultimately went nowhere.
''I talked with Jon a while back,'' Haden said, per the OC Register's Rich Hammond. ''He wants to coach in the pros. If he's a head coach, he wants to coach in the pros.''
The timing of Mortensen's report, then, comes at an opportune time, as the first NFL vacancy was opened Friday when the Texans fired Gary Kubiak. In the aftermath of Bob McNair's press conference, in which he openly claimed to be targeting a guy with head-coaching experience, Gruden was one of many names linked to the position. As noted by Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, ESPN's John Clayton placed Gruden atop a potential targets list.
However, Gruden seems ready to stick around in the booth for another year. Amid widespread speculation about his potential return to coaching after the 2011 season, ESPN rewarded Gruden with a five-year extension that began in September 2012. It's unclear whether these rumors of a return to the sideline will ultimately lead to another deal, but ESPN has proven in the past it's willing to pony up top dollar to keep Gruden with MNF.
It's unlikely they can keep him forever, though. While Gruden has taken pride in his improvement as a broadcaster and seems to enjoy the less-stressful life, he acknowledged while speaking in October that he'd like to return to coaching one day.
“I haven’t lost a game in 3½ years,” Gruden said, per Carlos E. Medina of the Ocala Star Banner. “But no, I would like to give coaching one more try.”
If Gruden makes it clear he's coming back, he won't have a shortage of suitors. In 11 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Buccaneers, Gruden compiled a 95-81 regular-season record and finished with a losing record just three times. He also made five playoff appearances, highlighted by a Super Bowl XXXVII victory in Tampa Bay.
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