ESPN has reported that Jon Gruden is the next head coach of the Raiders, but Gruden isn’t done working for ESPN.
An ESPN spokesman confirmed to PFT this morning that Gruden is still scheduled to call Saturday’s Titans-Chiefs playoff game, along with play-by-play man Sean McDonough and sideline reporters Lisa Salters and Adam Schefter. It was Schefter who reported for ESPN on Sunday night that Gruden is going to be the next head coach of the Raiders.
That raises questions about whether there’s a conflict between Gruden doing his job as an analyst and Gruden preparing for his next job as a coach. When FOX made Panthers tight end Greg Olsen a guest analyst for one game this season, the Vikings complained that it gave a player on an opposing team more access to their preparations than they were comfortable with an opponent having. FOX agreed to limit Olsen’s access, but the Vikings still weren’t satisfied and didn’t want Olsen working the game at all.
So will the Titans and Chiefs feel the same way? Despite Gruden having a good relationship with Andy Reid dating to their days together on the Packers’ staff in the 1990s, the Chiefs presumably don’t want the Raiders’ next head coach to have access to their preparations. The Titans don’t play the Raiders next year but will still be competing for them for an AFC playoff berth and likewise can’t be thrilled with the idea of the Raiders’ next coach having access that they’d never afford the head coach of another rival team.
And how closely will the NFL monitor Gruden’s contact with Titans and Chiefs players? If Gruden makes a comment about a pending free agent on one of those teams along the lines of, “That’s the kind of player I’d love to coach,” he would surely argue that he was just doing his job as an analyst by pointing out a player who’s playing well. But the Chiefs, the Titans and the NFL might consider such comments an example of the coach of one team tampering with players under contract to another team.
So it’s a thorny situation Gruden will be on Saturday, when he steps into the ESPN booth for what everyone expects will be the last time.