Former NFL coach and TV analyst Dick Vermeil feels a special kinship with Jon Gruden. Like Gruden, Vermeil was considered a coaching wunderkind. Like Gruden, Vermeil went to TV. And seemingly like Vermeil, it appears Gruden will be making a return to the sidelines as coach of the Oakland Raiders after spending several years in the broadcast booth. And Vermeil says it’s long overdue.
Vermeil coached the Philadelphia Eagles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But then in 1982, citing burnout, left to become a TV analyst. Working at CBS and then ABC, Vermeil remained in the booth before surprising most everyone, returning as a coach in 1997 of the St. Louis Rams and winning a Super Bowl before eventually making his last stop in Kansas City.
Gruden coached in Oakland and Tampa Bay winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers in 2003. After being fired by the Bucs in 2007, he made the transition to ESPN’s Monday Night Football, where he’s been ever since.
Vermeil said he was often asked to return when he was broadcasting and would turn the offers down. But looking back, he wishes he had returned earlier:
“I think I stayed out too long,” Vermeil, a member of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, said Tuesday. “I’m not a guy that regrets. I don’t. But if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have stayed out as long as I did.”
And Vermeil is urging Gruden to return now while he’s mentally and physically ready:
“When you have that passion as a leader,” Vermeil said, “more often that not it provides you with the opportunity to transfer some of that passion to that organization, which I think he is very capable of doing.”
Gruden has been an analyst on Monday Night Football since 2008 and has been the subject of numerous coaching rumors both on the college and pro levels. But it appears that he’s found the perfect situation with the Raiders. And Vermeil says like he did, Gruden can’t hide his passion for game and can’t stay away for too long.
We’ll find out soon enough if Gruden will indeed leave ESPN and go back to coaching.