Tennessee rumors become fresh leverage for Gruden’s NFL return

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In the event no NFL owners have been listening to Jon Gruden’s repeated musings about a return to coaching, an exclamation point — and a price tag — has been applied via the emergence of a report linking Gruden to the University of Tennessee.

Jason La Canfora of CBS reports that Gruden is “talking to” the Volunteers about taking over the program, at a price tag of $10 million per season plus another $8 million per year for his staff. (It’s easy to budget for coaches when a program doesn’t have to budget for players.)

Tennessee seems to want to move quickly, which would mean that Gruden would potentially have to exit his ESPN gig with weeks left on it. (They surely have someone else they could cram in to the booth for the final few games of the season.) Of course, this assumes that Gruden actually has interest in coaching in college. For now, there’s a chance that his interest is confined to using the interest of a college program to generate more interest from an NFL team.

Or, if all else fails, to secure another long-term, big-money extension from a four-letter network that has been hemorrhaging cash but that may feel like it has no choice but to pay whatever Gruden wants for however long ESPN has the Monday Night Football package.