Jon Gruden's Commitment to ESPN Is Smart Career Decision

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and now ESPN Monday Night Football Analyst Jon Gruden looks on during pre-game warm ups before an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on November 18, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Jon Gruden shouldn’t be looking to get back into the NFLyet.

As a former head coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football color commentator, Gruden has been tied to recent rumors about coaching vacancies in the NFL, including the top job with the Houston Texans.

After John McClain of The Houston Chronicle first reported that the Texans would not be targeting Gruden, the former coach spoke to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen about his focus:

I'm just trying to do my job. I'm not going to address every little rumor or supposed conversation that takes place, according to these so-called sources. There are a lot of good coaches out there available to coach these teams. I'm just hoping ESPN likes the job I'm doing. That's my focus.

Mortensen confirms that Gruden will stay with the network, at least through the 2014 season.

The rumors about Gruden’s return to the NFL have taken place during each season since he joined ESPN. After watching Gary Kubiak get fired in Houston, the rumors began circulating that Gruden would be a target.

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 9: Former coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries the Lombardi trophy to the field during half-time ceremonies as the Philadelphia Eagles play December 9, 2012 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs celebrat
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Gruden has worked at ESPN since 2009. In his 11 seasons as a coach in the NFLwith the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneershe amassed a 95-81 record. While his overall record isn’t very impressive, five seasons of playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win in 2003 make him one of the hottest head-coaching free agents on the market annually.

There is no questioning Gruden’s experience and talent, but the loyalty he has shown to his current employer over the years has been refreshing. Instead of leaving ESPN abruptly to return to the NFL, his commitment to the media outlet will be a virtue that teams will look at when the veteran is ready to make the jump back into the league.

There is no certainty that Gruden will ever come back, though.

His roles at ESPN as a color commentator and as a host of the quarterback camp series are less stressful jobs, and they don’t involve the pressure that comes along with coaching a franchise in the NFL. Gruden knows the toll that dealing with an owner and rabid fanbase can have on a head coach, and it's likely easier to stay in his current position.

Gruden hasn’t coached at the top level in over four years. While he has covered the sport extensively, the culture has shifted to a pass-first mindset. The former coach loved the West Coast offensive sets, and the transition back into the league would likely come with some trials and tribulations.

For now, Gruden is smart to fulfill his commitments to ESPN.