Every year, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden's name gets mentioned as a candidate for virtually every coaching vacancy around the NFL, but has turned down all of the opportunities to this point. However, that appears to be changing.
In an interview with PewterReport.com, Gruden said that he is planning on and preparing to return to the sidelines.
“I’ve met with several people – I won’t deny that,” Gruden said. “People – just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back."
Gruden hasn't coached since the 2008 season when he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but interest in him is high in both the NFL and top-tier college programs. Though a return is out of the question for the upcoming season, Gruden could return to coaching in 2018. If he does, here are his most likely landing spots:
6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Gruden hasn't coached in the college game since 1989 (when he was a wide receivers coach for Pacific), but Notre Dame certainly has the pedigree to spark his interest, and it would be worth at least giving him a call. Current Irish head coach Brian Kelly enters the season on the hot seat, and if he goes, Notre Dame will be trying to make a splash with a big-name coach. Should he not find an NFL job he wants, this could be an option.
5) Cincinnati Bengals
Despite never winning a playoff game and finishing 6-9-1 last year, Marvin Lewis is still the Bengals' head coach. But, surely, at a certain point, the Bengals need to fire Lewis, right? If they miss the playoffs this year, he could very well be gone, leaving a roster with plenty of talent for whoever comes in next. Gruden could be that guy - though Cincinnati may not be willing to meet his asking price.
4) Chicago Bears
Chicago has taken a big step back under John Fox, and while they're rebuilding, another terrible year could have them looking for a new head coach. They're one of the league's most prestigious franchises and have the history that might appeal to Gruden. He wouldn't have a lot to work with, but it would give him a chance to re-shape the roster how he wants.
3) New York Jets
Another franchise that is going through a rebuild and needs a roster overhaul, New York's biggest pitch to Gruden is being the coach in the Big Apple. Todd Bowles is likely on his way out with the Jets figuring to be one of the worst teams in the league, putting them in position to draft a franchise quarterback. Gruden would get to choose who he wants leading his team.
2) Tennessee Volunteers
Gruden, who started his career as a grad assistant for the Vols, was wooed by Tennessee after their head coaching job opened up following the 2012 season, and it seems like he has a tinge of regret over not accepting the position. He called coaching the Vols his "dream job," and with Butch Jones on the hot seat, the job could become available again in the offseason. If he does return to the college game, this seems to be the position he would do it for.
1) Indianapolis Colts
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano shockingly got a four-year extension last offseason when it looked like he was going to be fired, but his job is by no means secure. He may very well be on his way out if Indianapolis misses the postseason again this year, and the Colts would be a very attractive opening for Gruden. They already have a legitimate franchise quarterback in place in Andrew Luck (we know how important quarterbacks are to Gruden) and a playoff-caliber roster. Should he return to the NFL, this is his most likely destination.