“I’ve met with several people – I won’t deny that,” Gruden told the Pewter Report. “People – just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back."
It's anyone's guess how many jobs or interviews the 54-year-old Gruden has turned down since he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January 2009. Though he's repeatedly said how much he enjoys his life — whether that's coaching his sons, leading football camps or broadcasting — clearly he's itching to get back.
"You can hear it in Gruden’s voice," Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds wrote. "He’s always been emphatic when he talks, but he wants to coach me — or anyone that walks through the doors at the FFCA building for that matter — rather than just do an interview for PewterReport.com."
Where does he want to coach? Here are five potential openings in college football and the NFL that could open in the next six months.
It would take some big stones and a legendary leap of faith for a good Power Five program to hire a guy who's never been a college head coach and hasn't been in any college coaching capacity since 1991.
Tennessee did discuss the head coach opening with Gruden in 2012 when they ultimately hired Dooley. They have a new athletics director and other people in key administrative positions but it's still telling that some decision-makers were interested.
It's unclear if Gruden's good relationship with current head coach Butch Jones is any factor. If Jones were to be fired after a seven-win season, would Gruden even be comfortable replacing a friend?
Jon Gruden loves everyone, especially rookies, especially rookie quarterbacks. Though he pokes holes in their game during Gruden's QB Camp, he still gushes over their toughness, risk-taking, sideline demeanor, etc.
But he really loved Deshaun Watson last year, raving over his poise and ability to thrive under pressure. While Gruden feels like the guy who'd flip the script to become the interviewer and evaluate 500 different items when reviewing a job opportunity, he also feels like the guy who'd pass by Watson in the hallway and sign up immediately.
File this under the Lovie Smith-to-Illinois scenario. It's crazy to think Charlie Strong will definitely stay put at South Florida if he has a few solid seasons — or even one. It's not unreasonable to expect the former Texas head coach to get another big-time opportunity very soon.
Nine years getting fired by the Bucs, Gruden still lives in the area and terrific relationship across the state. The geographical fit is as good as it gets and it would give him a relatively low-risk opportunity to get back into the game.
Twenty-five years ago, Gruden's coaching stock took off as a position coach with the Green Bay Packers. Might he go back to the division with the Lions?
Jim Caldwell is 27-21 in three seasons with the Lions and has reached the postseason twice, making him already one of the most successful Lions' coaches in the last few decades. Nonetheless, if his team can't get over the hump and catch the Packers — or keep pace with Vikings — or they labor through a sub-.500 season, a change may happen.
Might a franchise who hasn't had a coach last more than five seasons since the mid-1990s be interested in Gruden?
While all these jobs are speculative wild card options, Florida Atlantic is a major wild card option. If there was mutual interest from the Owls and Gruden, wouldn't he have taken the job — or at least interviewed — before they hired Lane Kiffin last winter?
Like Charlie Strong at South Florida, Kiffin would assuredly jump at another Power Five opportunity. That's step one. Step two is convincing Gruden to come to a still-young program with zero history of success or stability. Then again, the potential to build FAU into a legitimate Conference USA contender could be fun for him.
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