Butch Jones’ ousting at Tennessee was anything but a surprise, especially after a flatly embarrassing loss to Missouri this week. Even before he was officially gone, though, it was an open secret that Jones wouldn’t be long for Knoxville and ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden has been a popular name associated with the job as a result.
Pete Thamel of Yahoo does not believe that will happen, however, and he made that known in a recent column.
So who is realistic at Tennessee? Anyone who mentions Jon Gruden in any capacity should be charged with journalistic negligence. The best window into how Currie thinks may be to study his last major search at Kansas State. Currie hired Bruce Weber, a generally successful and solid X’s-and-O’s coach who’d been fired at Illinois.
Weber wasn’t a splashy hire, but Currie wanted a coach who wouldn’t be overmatched or intimidated looking down the sideline at veteran coaches like Bob Huggins, Bill Self or Rick Barnes.
Thamel is candid in his belief that Gruden isn’t a realistic name and, in some ways, that makes sense. He would be jumping from what is, by all accounts, a fantastic job at ESPN to take over a difficult position that would require infinitely more work, travel, etc. than his perch at ESPN. Beyond that, Gruden has been out of the game for a (very) long time and, while he was a huge name in the NFL, it is another thing entirely to grind on the recruiting trail.
Of course, this is only one opinion and, even from a respected writer, there is wiggle room. Still, there is no sugar-coating the way Thamel thinks about this rumored partnership.