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Sean McDonough expects Gruden to stay with ESPN

Roy Cummings

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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.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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