So in response to the announcement by the dominant sports broadcasting and news operation that one of the biggest names in football has signed an “exclusive” deal to stay put, the dominant sports broadcasting and news operation has opted not to share any specific details regarding the precise nature of the supposed “exclusivity.”
In response to an inquiry via e-mail regarding whether the new contract prohibits Gruden from taking coaching jobs, ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer opted not to divulge “the terms of the deal.” He then supplied us with a quote that has been given to others, including our pal Brooks.
“Jon is committed to MNF for multiple years and his decision to sign this extension is a clear indication of his commitment to ESPN,” Hofheimer said. “He will not be seeking any coaching positions for the foreseeable future. We expect to have him here at ESPN for a long time.”
Whethe Gruden “will be” seeking coaching positions represents a far different concept from whether he “can be.” But barring someone at Bristol who comes down with a case of loose lips, we simply won’t know whether Gruden has the ability to leave, if he so chooses.
Then there’s the question of whether ESPN has paid him so much money that he’ll decide not to give up his current gig. If/when he drops the Jonny Gumdrops routine, he could be the next Madden. But to get there Gruden will need to truly set aside any designs on ever coaching again and quit speaking in superlatives regarding anything and everything that enters his field of sensory perception. (“This is the single greatest glass of water I ever have had! I am so excited to be drinking this water and talking about how much I like this water! And I don’t like this water, I love this water!”)
Our guess is that he won’t close the door on returning to coaching. Gruden knows how to build and use leverage. It’s how he got himself “traded” to the Bucs in 2002, and it has helped him secure after only nine weeks of the regular season an extension from ESPN.
The latest news will serve only to make his name more attractive in coaching circles, and he’ll be careful never to shoo interested G.M.’s and A.D.’s away — especially since the ever-present sense that he’s possibly available will prompt ESPN to continue to be ready to give him more and more money to ensure he’ll never leave.