If, as Raiders owner Mark Davis admitted on Tuesday, he struck a secret deal with Jon Gruden to coach the team on December 24, it means that Gruden secretly was working for the Raiders during a pair of games that he broadcast for ESPN.
Specifically, Gruden handled the Christmas night Raiders-Eagles game for ESPN with a secret deal in hand to become Oakland’s coach. Also, Gruden worked Saturday’s Titans-Chiefs game for ESPN with that same undisclosed (but by Saturday known by pretty much everyone) deal in place.
So we posed four questions to ESPN about the situation:
1. When did Gruden inform ESPN he was talking to the Raiders?
2. When did Gruden inform ESPN he was leaving Monday Night Football?
3. Did ESPN know Gruden and Mark Davis had reached an agreement before the December 25 Monday Night Football game, as Davis confirmed [Tuesday]?
4. Does ESPN have any policies that would have required him to disclose his plans before calling that Raiders game?
ESPN declined to comment on each of these questions.
The news that the Raiders had a deal with Gruden before firing Del Rio gives even more credence to questions raised in response to the initial reporting from Gruden’s former employer about what at the time was being called on the “pursuit” of 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.”
Yes, ESPN actually suggested that Gruden wants to wait for nature to takes its course between Gruden and Del Rio, even though the Raiders already had a deal in place with the Force of Nature who will help the Raiders finish their run in Oakland and launch their time in Las Vegas. So either Gruden lied to ESPN or ESPN lied to its audience.
Either way, Tuesday’s admission from Davis creates plenty of problems for plenty of people — none of which really matter to Davis, because he ultimately got the guy he wanted.