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Raiders closing in on Jon Gruden and might offer him an ownership stake to coach

Gruden, a former Raiders head coach, hasn’t coached since 2008.

New Orleans Saints v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Raiders are “preparing to pursue” Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden to be their next head coach, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Saturday. The two report that Gruden would be “tempted to accept” a Raiders offer.

The Raiders fired head coach Jack Del Rio following Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, opening the door further for the pursuit of Gruden. Del Rio went 12-4 and got Oakland to the playoffs in 2016, but the team couldn’t match that this season, finishing 6-10 despite starting the season with Super Bowl hopes.

On Sunday night edition of SportsCenter, Schefter was adamant that Gruden would be the Raiders next head coach, but nothing official has been reported yet. “The only question is when it happens,” Schefter said.

On Tuesday, Gruden acknowledged his candidacy for the job, and provided a bit of a troll in the process.

“My understanding is they’re interviewing candidates this week and they’re going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision,” Gruden said in a phone interview to the Mercury News. When they asked him if he was a candidate, he said, “Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I’m a candidate.”

Gruden, 54, last coached in 2008. He’s most known for his time leading the Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl. But he also coached the Raiders from 1998 to 2001, and the Davis family — now led by Mark, not his father Al — still owns the team.

Gruden’s name was connected often this year to the head job at the University of Tennessee, where fans have long been fixated on him. His was also floated this winter as a potential replacement for Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter. That didn’t materialize, and Gruden has continued in his job as a well-paid TV commentator.

Why would Gruden want the Raiders job?

The Raiders would be paying him more than he’s making at ESPN, way more according to the reports. Plus, they’d be throwing in a little something to sweeten the pot — an ownership stake in the team.

But there’s more than that. Gruden has a connection to the Raiders, the team he coached from 1998 thru 2001.

Schefter and Mortensen explain here:

He would return to an organization he didn't want to leave in 2001, he would inherit a young quarterback in Derek Carr whom he feels strongly about, and he would get to coach a team that is slated to move in 2020 to Las Vegas, where he would not have to pay state tax, as he does now in Florida, where he currently lives. Gruden's contract even could be backloaded to pay him more in the Nevada years and lessen his tax burden during the Oakland ones.

Raiders owner Mark Davis has offered Gruden an ownership stake in the past, according to sources, and if he were willing to do so again, the contract then would have to be approved by all 32 NFL owners. The NFL's finance committee also would have to vet Gruden, but there is no reason to think it would not approve the deal.

Has Gruden said anything about this?

Vaguely, to Schefter and Mortensen, his colleagues at ESPN:

"I don't want to sit here and speculate. ... There is no news to report," Gruden said Saturday. "I can't say I haven't taken any phone calls. I take a lot every year from coaches, some others. ... Yeah, sometimes owners. Guys want to bounce ideas off me. I'm here to help people."

Wait, is this going to wind up just like all the other Gruden rumors?

Beyond Schefter’s insistence that this will happen, there was another report Monday morning indicating that we’re getting close to Gruden taking the job. Ian Rapoport echoed Schefter, saying that Gruden “will say yes eventually,” but he’s making sure the Raiders comply with the Rooney Rule. He’s also on tap to be in the booth for the Titans-Chiefs playoff game on ESPN this coming Saturday.

It’s notable that the report came initially via ESPN, Gruden’s current employer, and their two most connected NFL reporters. Typical Gruden rumors — Grumors, if you will — start popping up without the kind of cachet those two give it.

Prior Grumors don’t include this much detail with respect to his compensation package. That’s because they’re either been put out there by Gruden’s camp to strengthen his negotiating position with ESPN, or sometimes it gets leaked by owners or boosters hopeful to lure him out of the booth.

The Raiders rumors follows another Gruden report last week, from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, that he had already reached out to potential assistant coaches for his staff.

However, we’ve kind of been here before.

This Grumor has more legs than the usual version.

Is this a good idea?

Being as Gruden hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2008, it’s impossible to say with certainty. He clearly knows the sport well, and he fielded at least a .500 team in eight of his 11 seasons as a head coach. He won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season. Those are all good things, but the NFL’s a lot different now than it was then.

It would, if nothing else, be a fascinating story to watch unfold for real.

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