We’ve noted a few times this season that speculation about Jon Gruden leaving the Monday Night Football booth to return to coaching could make for some delicate situations at ESPN. We’ve seen another example of that today.
According to Deadspin, ESPN.com accidentally published an audio file containing everything that was said before, during and after Wednesday’s taping of Pardon the Interruption, and that included comments about Gruden leaving ESPN — which ESPN edited out of the show when it aired.
The comments were made by Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC, who said in an interview with hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon that Gruden would anger the ESPN brass if he were to quit his Monday Night Football job to go back to the sideline.
King’s full comments were, “I think at some point Jon Gruden definitely will go back to a sideline. I think your bosses at ESPN would be miffed, to put it mildly, if that happened this year, for a very simple reason: They dumped Jaws out of the booth to give the booth totally to Gruden. And if he takes off this year, I think there would be a lot of dissatisfaction, naturally. But I think the one thing Gruden will look at — that I would, too — is, Am I going to have a chance to win with the quarterback? Why are the Indianapolis Colts succeeding? Because they have Andrew Luck. Why if there was talent around RG3 would the Redskins be succeeding? Because they’ve got a mature, good quarterback. Dolphins are better than we thought they would be. They have a quarterback. Russell Wilson in Seattle. If you don’t have a quarterback, if I’m Jon Gruden, there’s no way I’m going. I’m not going to try to replicate what happened in Tampa, when I had to take Shaun King and Brad Johnson and all those guys and try to win with them. I’m going to a place where I know I have a chance with a quarterback.”
I asked a source at ESPN to explain why King’s comments were taken out of the broadcast and was told the interview was edited because it ran long: King, Kornheiser and Wilbon talked for eight and a half minutes, which meant about three and a half minutes had to be excised to fit it into the Five Good Minutes segment. ESPN says taking out King’s thoughts on Gruden (as well as comments about Colin Kaepernick and Ed Reed) was simply a matter of timing.
ESPN and Gruden have both said that he has a long-term contract with the network, and yet almost everyone in the NFL world believes that if the right coaching job comes along, Gruden will bolt. Whether you hear that talk on ESPN or not.