LOS ANGELES – I ran into Raiders owner Mark Davis on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
I asked him about an ESPN report that broke roughly an hour before, stating the Raiders were in hot pursuit of Jon Gruden as their next head coach.
Davis quickly parried the question.
“Those rumors come about every year,” he said.
Don’t let popular perception deceive. Davis is excellent dealing with the press, a master of saying nothing with a respectful smile and a handshake.
I asked about current head coach Jack Del Rio’s job status. He didn’t touch that one, either, as you’d expect.
I asked about Gruden again, more formally this time. Still nothing. Focus, he said, remains on beating the Chargers on Sunday afternoon.
That exchange didn’t produce the information I’ll deliver next: Davis would move mountains to get Gruden. Don’t have to say “per sources” there. That’s relatively common knowledge.
Davis would’ve loved to have hired Gruden over Dennis Allen back in 2012. He would’ve taken Gruden over Del Rio in 2015, despite Del Rio ultimately being Davis’ guy in that coaching search.
None of that means Gruden will be the next Raiders head coach. It doesn’t mean Del Rio will be fired.
Gruden has always been an exception to every rule regarding the Raiders, but…
Skepticism should always be applied to talk of Gruden’s return to coaching. The former Raiders head coach (1998-2001) has been targeted by many colleges and NFL teams, but none have wooed him out of the broadcast booth. Monday Night Football’s color analyst remains a beloved figure across the NFL and in the East Bay especially, but has seemed to enjoy his new career after coaching.
ESPN reports the Raiders have made a strong pitch to Gruden that could include an ownership stake and back pay to capitalize on Nevada’s lack of a state income tax. The Raiders, as you well know, are planning to move to Las Vegas in 2020.
You’ll find no comment here about odds Gruden will come aboard, or what it’ll take to re-fit him in silver and black. I can say he likes quarterback Derek Carr. This team has talent. Those are pluses for those pulling for a reunion.
Gruden, an ESPN employee, was quoted in the ESPN breaking news story saying there’s no news to report, but that he has taken phone calls from officials that he considered commonplace.
He was also reached by the Bay Area News Group on Saturday night and asked specifically about ESPN’s Raiders report.
"C'mon man. I'm out with my wife,” Gruden told BANG’s Jerry McDonald. “This is crazy. I was supposed to be going to Tampa last week . . . I've got nothing to report."
Gruden was linked to Tampa Bay – the Raiders traded him there after the 2001 season -- in a report earlier this week, but the Buccaneers chose to keep current head coach Dirk Koetter.
The point in all that background: Davis is right. These reports come about every year. Nothing has come of them before.
ESPN states the Raiders have made a serious push that could coax him back to coaching. No telling if it will.
Time will tell on that front. The wait-and-see will be no fun for Del Rio, who changed the Raiders culture and brought them back to respectability before this season’s mess.
His job status is less certain than expected back in February, when he signed a new four-year contract. It’s worthy of note, however, that Gruden and Del Rio share an agent.
The Raiders offense is a mess and changes are expected there regardless of this Gruden outcome. What comes next will have a great impact on the Oakland Raiders the next two years, and the Las Vegas Raiders in seasons after that.