Is Gruden really done with coaching?

Perhaps watching the terrible Jay Cutler validated Jon Gruden’s decision to re-up with ESPN through 2021. Who needs that headache?

Mike Tirico broke the news during halftime of Monday’s game. The deal means Gruden is out of coaching through ESPN’s current contract for “Monday Night Football.”

Technically, that means Gruden can’t coach again until 2022, when he will be 59. By then, he will have been away from the sidelines since 2008.

Sure, Gruden could return after a 14-year absence. Dick Vermeil did it and won a Super Bowl after a long side trip to the booth. But it seems unlikely.

It still seems hard to believe that given Gruden’s passion and intensity for the game, he will have coached his last game at the age of 45. Then again, John Madden called it a career at 41.

Gruden obviously knows he has a good thing at ESPN. Perhaps he also knows his limitations and that he will live a longer life without the immense stress of being a NFL head coach.

From ESPN’s perspective, the network wanted assurances that Gruden is all-in and committed to being in the booth on Monday nights. He probably earned a few extra bucks to take the coaching option off the table.

However, what if Gruden gets the itch in 2017? What if his dream opportunity arises? Would ESPN let him out of the deal?

You know, contracts are made to be broken.

ESPN, though, probably is going to hold Gruden to this deal. That’s why the language is in there. Clearly, he doesn’t want to be tempted either.

No more speculation on Gruden’s future until 2022. By then, he probably will sign a new deal to keep him in the booth.

Here’s the official release from ESPN.


Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden has agreed to an extension with ESPN that will keep him on sports television’s signature series and out of coaching through the remainder of the company’s current NFL rights agreement, the 2021 NFL season. [Gruden discussed the extension during halftime of tonight’s Saints-Bears MNF game in Chicago.]

Since joining ESPN in May 2009, Gruden has teamed with play-by-play commentator Mike Tirico to help make MNF the most-watched series in cable television history. Gruden has earned four Sports Emmy Award nominations in the Best Analyst category while helping MNF earn four show nominations for Best Live Series.

Additionally, the Super Bowl-winning coach has been widely praised for his groundbreaking SportsCenter Special: Gruden’s QB Camp series which has become a popular element of ESPN’s annual coverage in the lead-up to NFL Draft. Over the past five years, the in-depth, one-on-one interviews and film sessions have featured Gruden mentoring top quarterback prospects such as Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and eventual Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson.

Gruden has also contributed to ESPN’s NFL Draft and Super Bowl week coverage, major college football bowl games and other platforms. Next month, he will be part of the MNF team that calls ESPN’s first-ever NFL Playoff game, as well as the NFL Pro Bowl (Jan. 25).

“Jon has been a game-changer for ESPN and for Monday Night Football, entertaining and engaging fans with his vast knowledge of the game and his dynamic personality,” said John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production. “Jon has quickly become one of the premier analysts in all of sports and we’re thrilled he’s made this long-term commitment. We look forward to having him as part of our NFL presentation for many years to come.”

Beyond his analyst role, Gruden has committed himself to giving back to the game through the FFCA, a Tampa-based football think-tank he founded in 2008. The organization plays an important role in youth development with a specific emphasis on supporting high school athletic programs. ESPN will continue to work with Gruden to support these initiatives.

“Being a part of Monday Night Football alongside our ESPN crew is a dream job,” said Gruden. “I love calling big prime-time games every week and spending time with the best players and coaches on the planet, while also finding new ways to teach and talk about football year round. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

Gruden served as an NFL head coach for 11 seasons with the Oakland Raiders (1998-2001) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-08). He compiled a career record of 100-85 and led his teams to five division titles. Gruden’s best season was 2002 when the Buccaneers finished the regular season 12-4 and captured the Super Bowl XXXVII title with a 48-21 victory over the Raiders, the team he had coached just one season earlier. At the time, the championship made then 38-year-old Gruden the youngest head coach ever to win a Super Bowl.

Gruden began his NFL coaching career in 1990 with the San Francisco 49ers as an assistant in charge of quality control. He quickly ascended through the ranks, also serving as the Green Bay Packers wide receivers coach (1992-94) and the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator (1995-97).

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