Merriam-Webster today announced “surreal” as their choice for the Word of the Year in 2016. It’s fitting given everything that’s happened in the world-at-large and even in sports. We saw the Cubs, the Cavaliers, and even Leicester City win championships, all surreal moments. But the most surreal of all would be if Jon Gruden finally left his ESPN Monday Night Football job to return to coaching after being linked with 8,421 head coaching positions and not taking a single one.
In spite of his cushy, well-paying analyst job at ESPN, Gruden’s name has been linked with pretty much every vacancy in the world of football. The latest one is the Los Angeles Rams, who recently parted ways with Mediocrity King Jeff Fisher. The Rams might be enticing to Chucky as one of the franchises that could give the analyst a potential pay raise from Bristol.
Here’s Yahoo Sports with the report, who name Gruden, Stanford coach David Shaw, and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton as individuals the Rams are interested in pursuing.
The Los Angeles Rams are moving toward a meeting with ESPN analyst Jon Gruden about the team’s head coaching vacancy, multiple sources with knowledge of the Rams’ coaching search have told Yahoo Sports. The sources indicated Gruden has become a focal point on the Rams’ list of candidates, but that other candidates could also come into play – notably Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
It’s not known whether Shaw or Payton have any level of interest in the Rams job, but multiple sources said Gruden would be inclined to listen if the Rams were willing to grant him full personnel authority. One source said such a concession would be a “must” for Gruden to even consider taking a meeting with franchise leadership in the coming days. The Rams will consider granting personnel authority to at least some of the candidates in their search and that Gruden is among that group, a source told Yahoo Sports.
The Rams are just the latest team to enter the years-long saga that has been the Jon Gruden sweepstakes. Let’s see, there was the time he was linked with a return to the Oakland Raiders, the University of Tennessee, the Raiders again, the Eagles, USC, the 49ers, oh.. and he was just rumored to be “in the mix” at Texas for the second time in the last three seasons.
Gruden has a contract with ESPN through the 2021 season, but no matter how many times he re-signs with ESPN or how many years he’s under contract for, his name is always going to pop up for these rumors. Eventually, it would stand to reason that just by the laws of probability he would take one of these coaching gigs, right?
Gruden has been able to be very selective over the years when it comes to pursuing the right job and the Rams could certainly offer the power and the money that could make it enticing. They could also offer something arguably as important, too: a young “franchise quarterback” that Gruden is absolutely in love with. Of course, that’s not that hard considering Gruden loves every quarterback that steps on a professional football field, even the Brock Osweilers and Ryan Fitzpatricks of the world. But apparently those feelings are real with Jared Goff. Yes, that Jared Goff.
Those who have spent time with Gruden say he has continued to believe he could once again coach at a championship level in the NFL – particularly with rule changes that have given more leeway to offenses in recent years. But they’ve also said he has viewed his options for a return very selectively and largely predicated on a team’s quarterback situation. In that respect, Gruden’s belief in Jared Goff would be key.
It’s notable that he gushed about Goff in one of his “QB Camp” features on ESPN and also in some other interviews. While such public praise is taken with a grain of salt in many corners of the NFL, one source close to Gruden said he has also privately expressed that he believes Goff is a franchise quarterback.
It seems like we say this every time these Gruden coaching rumors come up, but ultimately we’ve reached the point where we’ll only believe it when we see it. Gruden has a fantastic job at ESPN where he can make millions of dollars without the year-round, round-the-clock stress that comes with being a head coach in the NFL. And the longer Gruden hangs out in the ESPN broadcast booth, the longer the odds are that he’ll actually make that long-awaited return to coaching.
Could it be the Rams and Jared Goff? Probably not, but there’s always the possibility. The best thing working in their favor might be that Gruden hasn’t had to broadcast one of their games this season.