The most highly sought-after NFL coaching candidate might be one that hasn't graced a sideline since 2008.
Jon Gruden may have been separated from coaching for quite some time, but rumors continue to swirl about where he will land in 2013. Seven head coaches were fired on the Monday after the end of the 2012 regular season, and Gruden will likely be at the top of many teams’ lists.
In the past four years, the Super Bowl winner has had his share of chances to get another coaching job. He’s remained close to the league, working in ESPN’s "Monday Night Football" booth, but is often quick to dismiss any speculation he will leave the booth.
Gruden is often quick to boast the resumes of other coaches instead of his own credentials.
“There’s a lot of good candidates out there,” Gruden said to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m just focused on the Outback Bowl.” Gruden was an analyst for the game between Michigan and South Carolina on New Year’s Day.
Gruden remains quiet about his coaching intentions, but 2013 may be the year that “Chucky” returns to the NFL. Here are the three most likely destinations for Gruden:
If any job would force Gruden to leave the play-by-play booth, the one in Chicago might be it. The Bears open position might be the most coveted one in a few years.
Chicago decided to fire Lovie Smith, but it wasn’t because the Bears couldn’t win this season. The Bears went 10-6, but missed the playoffs because of their tiebreaker with the Minnesota Vikings. With one of the league’s best defenses and an established quarterback in Jay Cutler, the Bears are not far away from being a Super Bowl contender.
General Manager Phil Emery said the organization needed to make a change because of their failures on offense. Gruden is a former offensive coordinator, and could help Chicago be successful on both sides of the ball. If he expressed an interest in heading to the Windy City, it might be hard for Chicago to turn him down.
The Eagles may have been the most disappointing team this season, but they might be the most intriguing situation for Gruden. He was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator from 1995-1997, and might be willing to take over for Andy Reid.
According to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, the firing of Reid could prompt Gruden to return to the sidelines.
“People around the NFL who know are convinced Jon Gruden is coming back to coaching this year, provided the right situation presents itself,” Pompei wrote on Sunday. “The right situation for Gruden very well could be in Philadelphia. People close to him think he has a good chance of landing there.”
Philadelphia might not be very close to contending in the NFC, but Gruden has indicated that he likes some of their pieces, going forward. He told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times that quarterback Nick Foles impressed him. Gruden also said Foles reminded him of Brad Johnson, who was the former coach’s starting quarterback when he won a championship with Tampa Bay.
In the past decade, the Eagles have been used to winning games, and hiring a coach that has already won a Super Bowl could be their best option.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were the worst team in football in 2012, a fact that could help them land Gruden. Kansas City’s 2-14 record has landed them the No.1 pick in April’s draft.
Scott Pioli might return as the team’s general manager, but Gruden would still have a large say in who the Chiefs take with the top selection. West Virginia’s Geno Smith and USC’s Matt Barkley are potential franchise quarterbacks. Gruden could find success for many years to come in Kansas City if the Chiefs hit the mark with their choice.
The Chiefs' struggles indicate that it might take them a while to return to the postseason. However, Andrew Luck helped turn around the Indianapolis Colts in one season, and the Chiefs already have a star running back in Jamaal Charles. Gruden’s offensive mind and a few good, young players could help change things in Kansas City relatively quickly.