TAMPA – Regular readers of Florida Football Insiders may or may not have noticed that we haven’t written very much about the possibility of former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden returning to the sidelines in recent weeks.
We haven’t written that because, after years of chasing those kinds of stories, we have come to the educated conclusion that Gruden has little or no intention of ever coaching again, either at the college level or in the NFL.
Sure, there is a part of Gruden that wants to return to the sidelines because coaching is in his blood. It’s truly what he loves to do most. But he’s got an even better gig now at ESPN and he knows it.
In his current capacity at ESPN, Gruden has become more than the face of a franchise, he’s become one of the faces of football, period, and it probably won’t be long before his name gets a boost in stature, too.
The generation of gamers who know who John Madden is has begun to fade. The likelihood then is that at some point in the near future, Gruden’s name will replace Madden’s on the NFL’s premier video game.
That’s not a reason never to coach again but it’s just one of the many reasons why Gruden will continue to have it much better where he is now than he ever had it or would have it again as a coach.
So, no, we’re not going to write a bunch of baseless stories saying Gruden is coming back to coach the Bucs or any other team simply to drive up site traffic, even though we love spikes in site traffic.
What we do here is report stories that have some basis in fact, and that’s what we’re doing here in light of a recent radio interview with Gruden’s Monday Night Football partner, Sean McDonough.
McDonough, who does the play-by-play that Gruden provides analysis for on ESPN’s Monday night telecasts, was a guest recently on the Chris “Mad Dog” Russo show on SiriusXM radio.
During that interview, Russo did what he should have done and asked McDonough to address the Gruden rumors, asking specifically if he thought Gruden loved his ESPN gig enough to stick with it long term.
McDonough’s response was telling because it spoke to both Gruden’s love for what he’s doing now and his love for coaching but also provided an avenue to follow at least for the short term.
“I know Jon loves what he is doing,’’ McDonough said. “I think that is obvious to anybody who is around and watches “Monday Night Football”). And obviously he is very well compensated.
“So I don’t think he would go back to coaching because, ‘Oh, the money is so different. I can’t afford not to do that.’ But he is a coach and I think he enjoys getting on there every Monday night and teaching America football.
“It is always going to be there for him because he doesn’t totally have the coaching bug out of his system. So I think whenever these (openings) come up, he has to weigh the positives and the negatives.
“But I would be surprised if he went back (to coaching) next year. Would I would be completely shocked? No. But my full expectation is that he will be back with us again next season.’’
So there you have it. The man who works closest to Gruden doesn’t believe Gruden is going back to coaching, at least not yet, and if he’s not ready to go now, well then when would he go? Really, think about that for a second.
A lot of good jobs opened up this year, particularly in the college game, where Gruden could have had his choice of jobs at Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, UCLA or even Oregon.
He chose none and he won’t choose any of the NFL jobs that open up either because none of those jobs – including the Bucs job, should it open up – is as good as the job he has now. And chances are it will stay that way.
Oh sure; there’s chance that maybe someday down the road, some Super Bowl-ready team will suddenly fire its coach and ask Gruden to carry them the rest of the way to the promised land the way he did with the Bucs.
But even that seems a bit unlikely. After all, NFL owners have a pretty good gauge on what it is Gruden really wants to do, too, and tarnishing his ever-growing legacy by failing to polish off a champion isn’t one of them.
Final injury updates for Bucs and Jaguars Sunday games
As the Buccaneers get set to head to New York to play the Giants and the Jaguars are preparing to host the Steelers Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the injuries in those two games. (Reminder the Dolphins have their bye week for this weekend.)
Here’s a look at the latest:
For the Bucs, there Friday injury report has defensive names littered all over it and the news is not good for some of them.
After we were told by a source that Lavonte David was going to try to play Sunday, he apparently was overruled by the training staff and head coach Dirk Koetter, etc, and the Pro Bowl linebacker will be inactive with his sprained knee. Likewise, Vinny Curry will miss another game at defensive end, his fourth in the last five with a sprained ankle.
It’s the same situation with second year safety Justin Evans, who will miss the game with an injured toe suffered in the game with Washington last week. Defensive end Carl Nassib, who’s been a pleasant find off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season, is questionable with a left elbow injury suffered agains the Redskins, although he was able to practice on Friday.
The Bucs also list their receiver Chris Godwin as questionable with an ankle injury, and another important injury is starting center Ryan Jensen, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. If Jensen is unable to play Sunday, then Ali Marpet, starting at left guard this year, but who played center a lot of 2017, would likely take his place.
The Buccaneers opponents, the Giants, had four players on their injury list this week, but all of them are now slated to play in the game on Sunday.
For the Jaguars match-up, they have two significant injuries to update, starting linebacker Telvin Smith was able to practice this week with his shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, but expected to play against Pittsburgh. There is concern for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with a triceps injury and he is also listed as questionable. Dareus will likely be a game time decision.
Defensive back A.J. Bouye has been bothered by a calf injury, but he is also expected to play after being able to practice Thursday and Friday and listed as questionable. Coach Doug Marrone also announced that tackle Erik Flowers, who left last week’s game with tendonitis in his knee will start on the makeshift Jaguars line.
As we wrote earlier in the week, Jacksonville placed Center Brandon Linder on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in last week’s lost Indianapolis.
The Steelers have no significant injuries, despite Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner both being on the injured list,. They will both be playing on Sunday. Connor was a much bigger concern having been in concussion protocol earlier after suffering one in the win last Thursday night over Carolina.
However, he cleared the protocol and was able to fully practice this week.
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul ready to go get Eli Manning Sunday
It’s one of those juicy subplots that we see all the time now in professional sports. A player gets to go against his old team and show them that maybe they made a mistake and letting him go. In this case on Sunday, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will battle against his old team, the New York Giants. And that means, against a lot of former teammates.
One in specific, quarterback Eli Manning, maybe less than thrilled.
JPP has been one of the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL over the last decade, nevertheless, the Giants elected to trade into the Buccaneers back in March.
So when the organization that you won the Superbowl with in 2011 has decided to move on without you, there’s naturally going to be some questions from the media about you playing against them for the first time. And, you going against their borderline Hall of Fame signal-caller, Manning.
Such was the case Wednesday in the Buccaneers locker room prior to practice:
"It's been checked off since I left there, and I'm pretty sure they know I'm bringing the house down. At the end of the day, it is what it is. I just know once I get there I'm going to be going 100 percent."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 14, 2018
Pierre-Paul has already energized the Bucs pass rush and has eight sacks in the first nine games. This includes a streak of five consecutive games with a sack earlier this season. That is the first time since Simeon rice in 2002 that a Buccaneer had five straight games with a sack in a single season.
And coming into Sunday at The Meadowlands he has 66 1/2 of them in his career and would love nothing better than to take down the leader of the G-Men.
And while the Giants did look better on offense in their Monday night comeback win over the 49ers, it has clearly been a struggle for them to pass protect, specifically, throughout the early part of this season.
Pierre-Paul has to have been salivating watching their offensive line whiff and get run over in game after game.
Further, Buccaneer defenders like pro bowlers Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, plus players like Will gholston Brent Grimes and young safety Justin Evans went against Manning in a Tampa Bay’s win last September against the Giants.
A game that the Buccaneers squeaked out 25-23. A game where is Eli Manning threw it 49 times and wasn’t sacked once by the Buccaneers front seven. That’s a pass rush that was last in the NFL in sacks a year ago.
However, that was 2017. And, circling back to Pierre-Paul, he hopes to change that starting Sunday.
And, while it will be weird for him to dress in the visiting dressing room at MetLife Stadium and stand on the visiting near sidelines, he’s ready to put all of that aside, try to help the Bucs climb off the canvas and get a win in the Big Apple.
What is status of Bucs LB LaVonte David’s injured knee?
It’s been a rough enough last seven games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now comes word that another prominent defender may miss this week’s match-up with the Giants. A report Tuesday afternoon said that linebacker Lavonte David has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and his status is in doubt. That may not be the case, though. More on that in a moment.
Source tells me that Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David has a sprained MCL, jeopardizing his status for Sunday's game against Saquon Barkley and the Giants https://t.co/o1z9kUSbMj
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) November 13, 2018
David was injured in the third quarter of Sunday’s lost to the Redskins, while making a tackle. He was examined underneath the “mysterious blue tent” and was initially diagnosed as being questionable to return to the game. He did return and played in the fourth quarter of the 16-3 loss to Washington.
And, a source with knowledge of David situation told F.F.I. on Monday that David had been examined, and it was not believed to be a serious injury. Further, the source told us that David would wear a knee brace this week in practice and be able to play in the game on Sunday.
The seven year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler is one of the key players on the Buccaneers defense and currently has 71 tackles with nine of them for losses. And he’s being counted on more heavily after Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander tore his ACL in an October game with Cleveland and will miss the rest of the season.
The Bucs have also seen starters in the defensive backfield Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte already placed on injured reserve back in September. Also Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed two games with a calf strain and has not looked a hundred percent in the last two games with Carolina and Washington since coming back from the injury.
If David is unable to play or is limited on Sunday, the Bucs will count more heavily on reserve linebacker Devante Bond. Bond has seen more playing time after Alexander’s injury and will be asked to increase his responsibilities in the middle of the Buccaneers defense, as well.
Miami Hurricanes1 day ago
Is Mark Richt coaching for his job next two games?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers5 days ago
Bucs staying with Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t appear to be Koetter decision only
Tampa Bay Buccaneers6 days ago
Redskins take classless social media “dig” at Bucs coach Koetter
Jacksonville Jaguars5 days ago
Jaguars DB Jalen Ramsey implied Monday he wants out of Jacksonville