Jon Gruden is expected to be named the next head coach
of the Oakland Raiders.
Gruden is still scheduled to be in the booth for ESPN
to cover the Wild Card game between the Kansas City Chiefs and
the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.
The Chiefs may not want a rival’s next coach to have
behind-the-scenes access leading up to the game and both teams
may not like Gruden talking to potential free agents even if he
is just doing his job.
Jon Gruden’s return to coaching with the Oakland Raiders now
feels like the NFL’s worst-kept secret
and that reunion could cause a problem for two teams that
otherwise seemingly have nothing to do with the affair — the
Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans.
The Chiefs and Titans are currently preparing for their Wild
Card-round playoff matchup that will be broadcast Saturday on
ESPN. The color commentator for that game is expected to be
Gruden as part of his duties for “Monday Night Football.”
If Gruden is indeed the Raiders’ coach-in-waiting, this could
create a problem for the Chiefs, a division rival of the Raiders.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football
Talk pointed out, it is customary for teams to grant
behind-the-scenes access to network announcers preparing for the
game, access that would include practices and production
meetings. The Chiefs may not want a coach they are going to face
twice next season to have the same level of access, or any access
at all, to their preparations.
As of Monday morning, Gruden is still scheduled to work the game,
according to Bill Hofheimer of ESPN.
Earlier this season, Fox limited the pre-game access of
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen who served as a
commentator for a Minnesota Vikings game three weeks before the
two teams were scheduled to face each other.
One thing that may work in ESPN’s favor is Gruden and Chiefs head
coach Andy Reid are considered close from their days working
together as assistant coaches with the Green Bay Packers. But
that may not supersede the Chiefs’ desire for privacy.
Michael David Smith of Pro
Football Talk also noted that there is potential for both the
Chiefs and Titans to file tampering complaints with the NFL if
Gruden contacts potential free agents on either team prior to the
game or comments on them during the game. Even if done in the
framework of his normal broadcasting duties, it could be seen as
a violation of NFL rules prohibiting coaches from commenting or
contacting players still under contract with other teams.
While no official announcement has been made regarding Gruden and
the Raiders’ now-vacant coaching position, all signs point to
that just being a formality at this point.
On Sunday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Gruden will be the next coach of
the Raiders, a proclamation he presumably would not make
without some reassurance of its accuracy from fellow ESPNer
“It’s simple, you don’t make that move with Jack Del Rio unless
you know you can get Jon Gruden,” Schefter said on ESPN. “Jon
Gruden is going to be the next coach of the Oakland Raiders. The
only question is when it happens.”
In addition, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network
reported that Gruden is expected to accept the Raiders’
offer, but that he is slow-playing any announcement in an effort
to comply with the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” requiring teams to
interview minority candidates. Rapoport added that Gruden has
already picked a defensive coordinator.
“The Raiders are confident Jon Gruden will say yes eventually,
though he is being careful about doing so before they comply with
the Rooney Rule and he is still on the books to broadcast a game
Saturday for ESPN,” Rapoport wrote on Twitter. “Gruden is
already planning to call plays, hire DC Paul Guenther.”