The reasons for the Buccaneers deciding to keep coach Dirk Koetter possibly are becoming clearer. They may have lost an unofficial bidding war for Jon Gruden’s other former team.
ESPN, Gruden’s current employer, reports that the Raiders are preparing to make a run at Gruden.
That connection alone mandates the application of skepticism to any aspect of the report that seems self-serving to Gruden, including the eye-rolling notion that he prefers to wait to make a decision until after the regular season ends and the Raiders decide whether to keep coach Jack Del Rio. The Raiders won’t want to fire Del Rio unless they think they can get Gruden.
We’ve been making the case for weeks for the Raiders making a run at Gruden. With at least another year in Oakland and a future that consists of playing in a still-undetermined location for 2019 and Las Vegas as soon as 2020, the Raiders need sizzle and excitement — far more than what bringing Marshawn Lynch out of retirement did in 2017.
Gruden coached the Raiders before being traded to the Buccaneers in 2002. The mere possibility of Gruden coming back will create as much or more excitement among the fan base than it did in Tampa, where Gruden was recently added to the Ring of Honor.
On Monday night, Gruden called what may have been his last Monday Night Football game, which featured the Raiders at the Eagles. Chances are that, at some point over the weekend, Gruden spoke directly with Raiders owner Mark Davis.
The report suggests that Gruden could emerge with an ownership stake in the team. That’s something the league would surely frown upon, given the apparent collusion that has kept coaching compensation from increasing over the past decade at the same pace that the salary cap and player pay has ballooned.
Said ESPN employee Gruden to ESPN: “I don’t want to sit here and speculate. . . . There is no news to report. I can’t say I haven’t taken any phone calls. I take a lot every year from coaches, some others. . . . Yeah, sometimes owners. Guys want to bounce ideas off me. I’m here to help people.”
Being coy about the job would help the Raiders comply with the Rooney Rule before hiring him. If it appears to be a done deal, there’s a chance that any potential minority candidates would decline to sit for the job.
Last Sunday, PFT reported that the Raiders were 50-50 on firing Del Rio. If they can get Gruden, that percentage will change, dramatically.
The situation also invites plenty of speculation about a bidding war between the Raiders and Bucs for his services. And it’s fair to conclude that the Bucs decided to keep Koetter only after they decided that they didn’t want to give Gruden whatever Davis is willing to pay.