Here’s something to chew on this weekend as you continue to hear rumors about Jon Gruden bolting ESPN’s Monday Night Football for a return to coaching, either in the NFL or as a Nick Saban-style dictator of some big college program.
ESPN might be very angry if Chuckie leaves them in the lurch, according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC’s Football Night in America.
Appearing Wednesday on ESPN Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, King was asked if he thought Gruden would leave the broadcast booth and return to coaching. Absolutely, positively, replied, King.
But, and it was a big but, King doesn’t think Gruden’s going back to the Oakland Raiders as rumored. He’d be surprised if he takes a job this off-season at all. The biggest reason why Gruden will return to his MNF chair next to partner Mike Tirico, said King, is that ESPN would go crazy if he took off.
“In the first place, ESPN would go bat-dung if Jon Gruden left a year after they gave him a two-man booth,” King said. “He basically runs the Monday Night telecast. He runs the meeting. He’s the big guru with the teams.”
Kornheiser (an ex-MNF analyst himself) and Wilbon chuckled at King’s comment about the Worldwide Leader.
OK, let’s unpack King’s comment for a minute. It’s hard to see ESPN getting bent out of shape if some ex-football coach turned analyst hits the road. It happens all the time. There’s so many ex-coaches stopping by for a cup of coffee on the air, it’s no surprise when they leave Bristol to go back to their first love. See Urban Meyer.
But King has a point that could mean some ugliness if and when Gruden leaves. After all, ESPN kicked Ron Jaworski out of the three-man Gruden-Tirico-Jaws booth to give Chuckie a chance to shine. Jaws has taken it like a good solider. But it must rankle like hell.
Two, ESPN’s paranoid about the notion it’s never gotten the MNF broadcast team right, that their guys are second best to Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels on NBC and Troy Aikman and Joe Buck on Fox.
Three, ESPN’s all in on Gruden. I’ve talked to plenty of ESPNers about him and they’re fans. They think he’s next John Madden. And the key to putting MNF back on top of the sports broadcasting mountain where it used to be with Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford.
So this bears watching.
ESPN announced last year that Gruden had agreed to a five-year contract extension starting in September, 2012. Gruden recently ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike In the Morning to address the rumor he was taking over at the University of Tennessee.
ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer said in a statement Friday: “Jon remains committed to ESPN. With three weeks of our MNF schedule still left to be played this season, Jon is focused on his analyst role and all the preparation that goes into our game each week.”
Spors Biz USA featured in ‘Orange County Register;’ McCarthy talks to ESPN about Matt Barkley’s diminishing ad prospects.
Our blog was prominently featured in an excellent piece by Scott Reid of the Orange County Register analyzing how much money USC QB Matt Barkley cost himself by returning to school this season rather than entering the NFL Draft and turning pro.
That led to an interview with ESPN Los Angeles about how much Barkley lost in potential salary, bonuses and endorsement deals. Take a listen here.