Looking At A Gruden Comeback

July 21st, 2017

Ira Kaufman is the most beloved, revered and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters for a full year. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out his columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Next January, when a half-dozen NFL clubs are looking for a new head coach, Jon Gruden’s name will be mentioned prominently.

Happens every year.

The man who guided the 2002 Bucs to football nirvana has built a formidable second career as ESPN’s analyst on Monday Night Football. And although he hasn’t designed a play or flipped a visor in anger since 2008, Gruden remains high on wish lists around the league.

But as Gruden’s agent tells him whenever he’s pondering the latest offer, “Jon, you might have to take a pay cut.”

Yes, a pay cut.

Gruden is likely ESPN’s highest-paid employee and his additional revenue streams continue to flow like Niagara Falls.

Yes, he misses the juice of NFL competition. He can’t deny that with a straight face.

“Hey, Bisaccia. Look at this sh**, Kaufman just can’t stop typing about me. I love that freakin’ guy.”

But the odds of Gruden returning to the sidelines diminishes with each passing year. He turns 54 next month and he is surrounded by friends and family in Tampa.

Would Gruden really want to pull up stakes and move to Cincinnati or Detroit?

He hangs out most days in his darkened Tampa office, where the only sliver of light comes from his trusty laptop.

His NFL film library can match the archives of most NFL clubs and Gruden entertains a steady stream of visitors — coaches, executives, current and past players, NFL prospects and ESPN personnel.

Amid all this activity, Gruden keeps a close eye on the organization that dismissed him after a second successive 9-7 season.

On the day Dirk Koetter was named to replace Lovie Smith, Gruden told me that Tampa Bay’s new head coach was “one of the NFL’s best-kept secrets.”

Koetter just led the Bucs to their first winning season since 2010 and Gruden says the secret is out.

“Dirk does a great job with that offense,” Gruden said on the brink of training camp. “He’s one of the best play-callers in the league and I think the Bucs are going to have a good season.”

Gruden worked with Jameis Winston during his 2015 QB camp and came away impressed. Now, he’s even more impressed.”

“Love everything about Winston,” he said. “This kid’s special.”

Gruden should know about special kids. His oldest son, Deuce, just became a world champion power lifter. Deuce also serves as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Redskins, working on Jay Gruden’s staff.

Gruden’s middle son, Michael, is breaking into the music business and Jayson finishing high school.

When Jayson graduates, that could be the trigger for Jon Gruden to make a stunning return to the NFL.

We already know he is returning to Raymond James Stadium for the Dec. 18 matchup against the NFC champion Falcons. ESPN cameras will be on site that evening as Gruden enters the Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony.

“I’m humbled and I appreciate this honor very much,” he says.

When Gruden travels each week during the season, he enjoys rock-star status at airports, hotels and stadiums. He has a lot of friends in the coaching community, men who keep asking him the same question:

“When are you coming back?”

I’m not sure Chucky knows the answer himself. What I do know is any potential NFL head coaching job would have to check off the boxes for salary, location, ownership and talent, particularly the man under center.

And don’t forget about that pay cut, Jon.

19 Responses to “Looking At A Gruden Comeback”

  1. feelthepewterpower Says:

    Glad to have Coach Gruden comeback for the ROH announcement in August. Don’t always agreed with his personnel decisions and how he handled players, but forever grateful for the ‘Ship he brought into Tampa Bay.

    Oh, and he’s also right about Dirk Koetter….Koetter is in the making of being a special-special coach.

  2. Chrisco4BUCS Says:

    Good read Ira, you’re the man

  3. D-Rome Says:

    When Jayson graduates, that could be the trigger for Jon Gruden to make a stunning return to the NFL.

    Great article Ira as always but c’mon, he’s not coming back to coaching. He’ll be the first to tell you, if he hasn’t already, “C’mon Ira, I haven’t lost a game in eight year maaaaan.”

    Besides that I can’t remember the last time a guy who was a coach, went to broadcasting, and then back to coaching was successful. Maybe it has happened but the last person I can remember that tried was Barry Melrose. Look how that turned out. Coaching has probably passed Gruden by.

  4. RayJameisStadium Says:

    New Orleans is waiting with open arms…

    He will want to keep Brees until Brees is 50.

    Thank you Gruden!!! You gave us the ultimate gift for a Buccaneer fan!!!!

  5. Patrick Says:

    D-Rome, only one I can think of is Dick Vermeil.

  6. Nole&aBuc Says:

    Speaking of comebacks, when will “Morning cup of Joe” return? Hopefully before Chucky returns to coaching.

  7. Bucsince1976 Says:

    Dick Vermeil went into broadcasting for over a decade, came back to coaching, and won a SB.

  8. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    ^^^ Dick Vermeil

  9. D-Rome Says:

    Dick Vermeil went into broadcasting for over a decade, came back to coaching, and won a SB.

    Thank you. You’re right. That said, what Vermeil did in St. Louis with his staff was the start of how the game is played today. If Gruden were to come back I think he needs to do something different.

  10. bucvol01 Says:

    Love Gruden and was very upset that he was fired. Probably the biggest mistake the Bucs ever made. IF I recall most of the fair weather Tampa Bay fans and the local media were pushing him out the door, even some of them ones who are singing his praises today (not naming any names) were the same ones who wanted him gone then. You make an emotional decision like that sometimes it comes back to haunt you. Hopefully we have the right coach now to lead us to the promise land. Go Bucs! Go Vols!

  11. Buccfan37 Says:

    Who in their right mind would walk away from the spotlight and fame and all the trappings at the pinnacle of success of his present situation?

  12. Lunchbox Says:

    Good stuff Irv. I always thought Gruden’s style was more suited to the college game. After a few years of his intense, rah rah style, the guys would move on, with new guys to teach. I do realize however, Gruden’s dislike for inexperienced quarterbacks, which definitely doesn’t favor the college game.

  13. stpetebucsfan Says:

    I just don’t get how $$$ figure prominently into this decision. Gruden is not a man who seems greedy to me.

    According to Celebrity Net Worth Gruden earns 6.5 million annually from ESPN and has a net worth of 22.5 million. Considering how long he’s been making MILLIONS dating back to his coaching days 22.5 million seems waaaaay low to me.

    Bottom line…he DOES NOT NEED MONEY! It’s America and everyone has the right to try and get as much money as possible…when they exhibit obvious greed however all of us have the right to point and say…that’s just obscene wealth at this point.

    Having said that though I’m certainly saying the opposite about Chucky. If he were greedy he’d have a LOT more than 22.5 million already.

    Bottom line…I just don’t see $$$ driving his decision. It will be his ego…not in a bad way..we all have one and that’s what motivates us…his health and age…he appears to be very healthy…but as you get older that energy level normally drops…but not always. Perhaps Chucky is like Trump. And for all anybody can say about Trump…even those who hate him have to admit he has endless energy at 71 so perhaps Chucky is cut from the same cloth.

    Personally I would be bored squatless if I was Chucky at this point. He is a competitive man and how does he get his juices flowing for ESPN…$$$? Fame?
    Where is the challenge?

    I think that challenge and if his competive fires still burn…he’ll be back. He’s obviously not desperate though and so he’ll pick his spot.

    He would LOVE to coach the Bucs now that we have #3…but if the Raiders stumble he’d love to coach them…pick any team that has a promising franchise QB and he’ll be on board.

  14. Duke Says:

    D Rome,

    About having to do something different, west coast offense is still the most popular system used today. It’s so widely used that the west coast moniker has been dropped in favor of pro style. Bottom line, He brings his system with new ideas incorporated into the old system.

  15. Pickgrin Says:

    Great summation of Jon Gruden’s current situation Ira.

    I think that “competitive fire” spbf is talking about is the only thing that could bring Chucky back.

    Everything else points to the smart move being – keep doing what you are doing.

    Jon gets paid crazy $ – as much or more as he would make as a HC – to “work” maybe 30 hours a week (including travel time) 6 months of the year. He has time to spend with his family. He has time to pursue other interests and time to make $ on the side with those interest – hanging out with and working with the best young QBs coming out each year – hanging out with Hooters girls on a regular basis…. Being treated like a rock star literally anywhere he goes around the country…

    These are “perks” that would be pretty hard for anyone to give up – knowing that you are trading them in for 100+ hour work weeks 10+ months of the year working as an NFL head coach.

  16. Xandtar Says:

    Coach Gruden is going to make it into the Hall of Fame the John Madden way– as a broadcaster with a Ring to back up the verbiage.

    All he has to do is stay put for 10 or so years and he’ll be in Canton wearing one of those yellow coats. In the meantime, he gets all the perks of being considered one of the NFL’s greats, while never having to win another game.

    Yes, everyone is the best according to broadcaster Jon but that’s just his schtick, everyone knows it’s an act. The day he starts coaching again there will be a blizzard in the nether regions.

  17. carry that mofostick Says:

    love gruden, and i think like brady and bill, dirk and winston are pretty much joined at the hip, winstons talent and his play calling will make them both legends and this team an explosive powerhouse to which we as fans have never witnessed in the history of our beloved team, special time to be a bucs fan, go dirk, go jameis, go bucs!!!! i am stoked

  18. Buc50 Says:

    There is no way I would give up a cushy job that pays way more than coaching to go back into that uncertainty. Gruden is on track to make a mark like Madden and get into the HOF as a coach AND broadcaster. Don’t screw up your career Jon, stay in the booth.

  19. mike n Says:

    @drome… coaching has probably past Gruden by… Lol how stupid. If he wants to coach, he will win. He made the raiders into one of the leagues best teams, won a super bowl with tampa and will win at his next stop. His brother has done a great job even with the disfunction in DC, Vermil came back had won, Gibbs came back after racing cars for over a decade and won even though DC is the worst place for any coach. I’d like to see him come back but he ain’t going to clevland or some crap hole like that. I could see him with the cards if Bruce retires or KC if andy takes a few years off retires. He won’t be going to a place with bad ownership like the chargers. I just hope its not Carolina after Ron goes 5-11 this year.