Next week, when the Panthers and Eagles prepare to square off on Monday Night Football, one of the guys from the ESPN broadcast team eventually could end up being a candidate to coach either of the teams that will be playing.
Indeed, on a night when Eagles fans will be loudly and continuously calling for the ouster of Andy Reid, they also will be welcoming Gruden back to Philly with pleas that he return to the franchise where he served as offensive coordinator before Reid was hired to serve as head coach. It will make for an interesting production meeting between the pair of former Packers assistant coaches, and every word Gruden utters from the booth will be parsed for clues as to what he plans to do.
Actually, anything and everything he says — and doesn’t say — over the balance of the season should be regarded that way. With reports mounting that Gruden is preparing a return to coaching, the public silence from Gruden regarding his plans speaks volumes.
The latest report, which gives no credit to the pre-existing reports, comes from CBS, and it expands the Gruden universe to include college jobs at Arkansas and Tennessee. Which means that Gruden’s agent, Bob LaMonte, is trying to ensure the best possible terms for a Gruden return, both from a cash and power and quality-of-program standpoint.
That’s why Gruden has pulled punches over the last few years from the broadcast booth. He knows that, when he finally returns, maximum options will lead to maximum leverage, which will allow him to pick the best situation — with the ability to win and get paid a ton of money and have a lot of power all rolled in to one big giant of mojo.
Until Gruden says that he’s not returning, the presumption should be that he is. And the coaches of the teams he’ll visit for the remaining MNF games should be understandably leery.
After all, they could be competing with Gruden before too long.
If it ever becomes a problem, ESPN can announce another exclusive contract extension with Gruden, while continuing to refuse to elaborate on whether the exclusivity means he can’t leave the four-letter network for a job in a three-letter football league.