Jon Gruden could be coming back to coaching.
Jon Gruden hasn’t coached since 2008, but it looks like he’s interested in a comeback. Gruden told Scott Reynolds of The Pewter Report as much this week, noting that while he loves his job at ESPN, he’s “preparing” to return to the sidelines.
Where will Gruden return? It’s likely he lands back in the NFL. Gruden, who has been rumored for a number of college jobs in the past, joked that if he took on such a job now, he’d likely land the program in hot water.
“Too many rules, man. I mean I like to work. I don’t like to be working 15 hours a week with players. The recruiting, Facebook, texting, e-mails, all that stuff. Yeah, I’d probably have you in real deep, deep trouble if I was your college coach.”
Gruden is probably being honest. But that doesn’t mean he won’t have offers in the college ranks.
Here are five programs that could tempt him to return to the college game.
Gruden isn’t going to take a college job that isn’t in a major conference and doesn’t have a shot at winning a national title. Nebraska, in theory, checks both of those boxes.
Nebraska’s main issue in recent history has been recruiting. Gruden could solve that immediately.
He’d also be in the easier half of the Big Ten – with a clear path to the league’s title game every year.
Mike Riley is 64 years old, so he clearly isn’t the long-term solution in Lincoln. This is a long shot, but Cornhuskers fans can dream.
If 2017 doesn’t pan out for Gus Malzahn, the Tigers could be looking for a new coach.
Taking a job in the SEC West – one that still features Nick Saban – would be a challenge. But Gruden has the clout to land recruits and compete.
3. Texas A&M
Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat entering 2017, so the timing could work at Texas A&M.
The Aggies have a rabid fan base, an unbelievable campus and tons of money. Could it be enough?
2. Notre Dame
Gruden is a Notre Dame fan’s dream coach. He also went to high school in South Bend, Indiana.
Brian Kelly likely won’t be Notre Dame’s head coach much longer. So the timing is there.
The main issue? If Gruden doesn’t like having to follow rules, Notre Dame won’t be the place for him.
Gruden once called Tennessee a “dream job” – back in 2012. The Vols hired Butch Jones back then, but that hasn’t worked out as well as fans would have wanted.
If Jones gets the hook, Gruden could be tempted again. Here’s what he had to say five years ago, via NFL.com:
“I don’t know how close,” Gruden said Thursday when asked if he was close to accepting the UT job when it opened after the 2012 season. “I love football. I’ll be the first to tell you, I miss coaching. But I do look at my job here as a lot like coaching. I get a chance to be around it 364 days a year and I feel like I’m improving, but I don’t have a team. Tennessee is a dream job for a lot of people, me included. Timing wasn’t right. I’ll say this about the Volunteers, they got the right guy. I think Butch Jones is going to put the Volunteers back on the map. It might happen this year.”
If Gruden were to come back, Tennessee would have the best chance of landing him. Still, as noted, we expect him to end up in the NFL.