The Raiders are officially in the midst of a coaching search.
Well, sort of. The technical term both applies and doesn’t, considering they need a new head coach after firing Jack Del Rio Sunday yet have already locked in on their guy.
Jon Gruden is expected to become the next head coach, though the Raiders weren’t thrilled that became common knowledge before the regular-season finale. Owner Mark Davis captained the ship and the circle was kept tight – even trusted confidant and general manager Reggie McKenzie was kept in the dark -- but obviously expanded as a Gruden-Raiders reunion moved farther down the road.
ESPN broke news about Gruden, an ESPN employee, being tempted by a blockbuster offer to coach the team he ran from 1998-2001. Al Davis traded him to Tampa Bay, and he led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory over the Raiders.
It’s become clear that Raiders owner Mark Davis has a plan to lock Gruden down. That plan, it seems, is going to work.
There are a few hurdles to clear before that happens.
The Raiders have to interview at least one minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule. They’d like to interview a few more options as well, though it might be tough getting good candidates through the door with Gruden as the real target.
Gruden is also scheduled to call Saturday’s AFC playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans for ESPN, and will reportedly honor that commitment.
That’ll likely push a formal announcement into next week.
The Raiders took care of one piece of business on Monday, a source said, telling Del Rio’s assistants they can start looking for other jobs and get out of their contract should they find one.
Gruden has reached out to possible assistants in recent weeks, with reports streaming in about possible additions to the staff.
Gruden will obviously construct his own coaching staff, but personnel people could be added to McKenzie’s department. McKenzie’s influence will be dulled once Gruden’s on board. It’s uncertain whether Gruden will have complete control over personnel decisions, but he’ll have significant say and influence at the least, maybe more that McKenzie. We’ll have to wait and see on that front.
The Raiders said in a statement announcing Del Rio’s departure they won’t have further comment until an announcement is made.