For Pete's Sake

Jon Gruden will call Chiefs’ playoff game. Could he be scouting them, too?

Jon Gruden
Jon Gruden File photo

It’s been an annual tradition since Jon Gruden left coaching after the 2008 season: his name is linked to a number of NFL openings after a season ends.

It’s so common that they are called “Grumors.”

You can see why Gruden would be a hot commodity. He had four non-losing seasons with the Raiders, then was traded to Tampa Bay and won the Super Bowl after the 2002 season. He coached the Buccaneers for six more seasons, but has been an announcer ever since.

Sure enough, as the 2017 regular season ended on Sunday, Gruden’s name has been linked to an NFL job: the Raiders.

This “Grumor” may have legs, however. There is reason to believe he’ll return to Oakland, according to people who cover the NFL.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported that the Raiders have an offer that could include an ownership stake with the team.

When contacted by ESPN, where he works now as an analyst, Gruden was vague.

“I don’t want to sit here and speculate. ... There is no news to report,” Gruden told ESPN on Saturday. “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.”

Albert Breer of “Monday Morning Quarterback” tweeted that there are three signs that Gruden is returning to coaching:

1) He’s been lining up staff for a few weeks. Not always a sure sign a guy is coming back, but he’s done what he’d need to.

2) He’s not as happy in the booth.

3) His youngest graduates high school next year.

The Raiders on Sunday fired coach Jack Del Rio, and later that night, Schefter said on “SportsCenter” that means the Raiders would sign Gruden.

“It’s simple, you don’t make that move with Jack Del Rio, unless you know you can get Jon Gruden,” Schefter said. “Jon Gruden is going to be the next coach of the Oakland Raiders. The only question is when it happens.”

Gruden, 54, has been working as an analyst on “Monday Night Football” games for ESPN, but he reportedly hasn’t matched up well with play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough.

However, those two will be calling the Chiefs-Titans playoff game for ESPN on Saturday, and Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk wrote 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.”

Smith added: “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.”

That makes sense.

It adds a bit of intrigue ahead of the Chiefs’ playoff game. Perhaps Gruden won’t take the Raiders job. Or maybe he will and step down from ESPN before Saturday.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith answers questions following the team’s 26-15 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff