Bad news, Tennessee fans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter Ira Kaufman believes Jon Gruden will return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rather than accept the job with the Vols next season. Kaufman told PFT Live that current Bucs coach Dirk Koetter needs a strong finish to salvage his job, but ownership could be leaning toward bringing back the former Super Bowl winning coach to appease the fanbase.
"I think Koetter's got seven weeks to prove that this team is still buying what he's selling," Kaufman said. "The stands are half empty, and there's a guy out there that has a lot of juice and can fill those stands. . . . I'm starting to believe it for the first time, that Gruden's coming back."
According to Kaufman, sources have indicated that Gruden would be open to making a return to coaching, but would prefer the NFL as he doesn't like recruiting, according to Pro Football Talk.
Last week, former NFL executive Mike Lombardi told The Ringer NFL Show that Tampa Bay Buccaneers players have already "quit" on head coach Dirk Koetter and the franchise is expected to consider Gruden as his replacement.
"Saturday afternoon I hear from somebody in the league and they say 'You went with the Bucs? Really? The Bucs — everybody in the league knows they quit.' Why didn't somebody tell me that beforehand?" Lombardi recalled. "I thought they had a chance to rally."
Lombardi also noted that the franchise hasn't shied away about firing coaches previously and confirmed that he received "two phone calls" from people claiming that Gruden was a serious candidate.
"Look, the Glazers have fired people — they fired Jon Gruden who won a Super Bowl for them, they fired Tony Dungy, alright, they fired Greg Schiano after two years. They're going to fire Dirk Koetter," Lombardi said. "They fired Raheem Morris. One thing you know as an executive, when it's going south, it's south — it's south in Tampa. I know they play the Jets this week, but there's no turning this thing around. Ryan Fitzpatrick playing his old team? Come on.
"I thought they really were poorly coached in terms of their execution. It was bad. To me, you're going to hear the Jon Gruden talk, because it's heating up. I had two phone calls from two people in the league who said 'Wait and see this happen.'"
Last month, Lombardi had previously reported that Gruden's name had been linked to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching job, where he worked from 2002-08 and won a Super Bowl.
The Bucs were predicted by many to be a playoff contender in 2017, but have gone 2-5 in their first seven games.
Gruden went 57-55 during seven seasons with the Bucs, which included winning the Super Bowl during his first year and winning the NFC South three times.
During a broadcast of Monday Night Football last month, the former coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden teased a potential return to coaching by saying "boy I miss coaching."
While it's likely something he's said numerous times during his nine seasons in the booth, it's more notable now as he's currently rumored to be the odds on favorite to replace Butch Jones as the Vols' next head coach.
Gruden's past ties to the Tennessee football program have led Vol fans to believe that the former Super Bowl winning coach could possibly take over on Rocky Top.
Gruden began his career as a graduate assistant with the Vols under Johnny Majors in 1986-87. His wife, Cindy, was a Volunteer cheerleader and, as several Twitter users pointed out, his son apparently attends UT.
The Monday Night Football broadcaster has also referred to the head coaching position at Tennessee as a "dream job" on numerous occasions and expressed interest in coaching again, although he's also downplayed the notion of coaching at the college level.
However, that could all be outweighed by Gruden's familiarity with the Bucs job and the fact that he still lives in Tampa. We'll have to see if either team can entice the coach to leave his comfortable position at ESPN.
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