During Monday night’s game between the Falcons and Saints, as we were watching and waiting for Drew Brees to surpass Dan Marino’s all-time single-season passing yardage record, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune dropped a bomb.
Acee reported that Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden has decided to return to coaching in 2012, and that he could join Chargers G.M. A.J. Smith in a package deal in St. Louis.
On Tuesday, ESPN said in a statement that Gruden “remains committed” to the network. But Gruden hasn’t said a word.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Gruden plans to coach. It could be that he simply wants to be pursued, so that he can then have his agent leak to the media that he’s being pursued, which will keep him at the top of the “A” list in 2013, when Gruden could decide he’s no longer “committed” to ESPN. Or it could be that he’s trying to play hard to get, in order to maximize his leverage.
Either way, few believe that he’ll be the coach of the Rams. Multiple sources have indicated that Gruden won’t be inclined to coach in St. Louis, for a variety of reasons (including but not limited to the climate).
Moreover, few believe that Gruden and Smith would be able to work together. “They would obliterate each other with ego,” one league source said. The source believes, as we suspected, that Smith is trying to save his skin in San Diego, and that he’s floating the St. Louis alternative as a way to persuade ownership in San Diego to keep Smith and pursue Gruden.
Regardless, until Gruden does what Tony Dungy has done on multiple occasions (i.e., state unequivocally that he won’t be coaching in 2012), Gruden will be perceived to be in play for a job, even if he really isn’t.