Announced at halftime of the New Orleans-Chicago game on Monday Night Football, Jon Gruden has squashed any speculation that he will return to the sidelines anytime soon. Mike Tirico announced to a worldwide viewing audience (don’t forget ESPN transmits Monday Night Football to networks across the globe) that Gruden has signed a contract extension with the Worldwide Leader and will remain with ESPN for the life of the network’s Monday Night Football rights agreement through 2021.
It means that Gruden, who joined ESPN in 2009, will continue to call 16 regular season games, one Wild Card Playoff game as well as the Pro Bowl for the network. In addition to calling games, the former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach will continue his Gruden QB Camp specials which have become must see TV over the years. And Gruden will resume being an analyst on ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage as well as during Super Bowl week.
Gruden began on Monday Night Football first in a three-man booth joining Tirico and Ron Jaworski and then after Jaws was jettisoned after the 2011 season, then in a two-man booth with Tirico since 2012.
Since he signed with ESPN, Gruden has been named in several coaching openings including Tennessee, Miami, Oakland (often), Michigan and other pro teams and colleges. However, he has signed contract extensions with ESPN choosing to remain in the broadcast booth and make awkward television ads. Now it appears that Gruden has elected to stay in television for the duration of the ESPN NFL TV contract.
From the ESPN press release, Gruden is quoted as follows:
“Being a part of Monday Night Football alongside our ESPN crew is a dream job,” said Gruden. “I love calling big prime-time games every week and spending time with the best players and coaches on the planet, while also finding new ways to teach and talk about football year round. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
So Gruden won’t be returning to coaching at least for the next seven years. We’ll see if he gets the itch to return to the sidelines after 2021 or decides that he loves TV so much that he signs another contract.
One thing is true, we know that we’ll have plenty of Gruden Grinders through 2021.