Since “that guy” Jon Gruden stepped into the MNF booth, many have wondered when he would jump ship from ESPN and return back to coaching. Well after several denials, the “Gruden could be our next coach” rumors are surfacing again. And Gruden is denying, again.

The local Chargers news outlet, Sign On San Diego, is insinuating that with Head Coach Norv Turner on the way out, the team’s President Dean Spanos would also have to decide whether or not to keep the team’s currrent GM A.J. Smith. The report indicates Smith may also be in line for the Rams GM job if he exits San Diego. Where Smith goes could be major news because of the close relationship Smith has with Jon Gruden, “Chuckie” may be back in coaching sooner rather than later.

“It is well-known in league circles that the relationship between Smith and Gruden is a solid one. The friendship began in the late 1990s when Gruden was head coach of the Oakland Raiders and was introduced to Smith by Smith’s closest friend, Bruce Allen, then the Raiders’ senior executive.” and the same news outlet also says “Sources said Gruden has decided to return to coaching in 2012 and that his current employer, ESPN, is already preparing for his departure.”

ESPN and Gruden have since denied any truth to the report, but we all know if you are looking for another job, you certainly don’t tell your current employer about it until you have a contract or handshake agreement. But besides Gruden pulling an Urban Meyer and leaving ESPN with egg on their face, this could also be the work of a savvy GM who wants to flash his relationships around in hopes he can keep his own job.

“Jon signed a multi-year extension with ESPN this fall,” ESPN said in a statement provided to PFT.  “He remains committed to being a part of Monday Night Football for many years.”

If Gruden does leave after this season, it would make a mockery of that “exclusive contract” he signed with ESPN earlier this year. Regardless of whichever team Gruden ends up coaching for, I think it’s safe to say most of the MNF veiwership will be smarter upon his eventual departure. Time will tell if he takes his love for everybody in the NFL back to the sideline.

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