If Jon Gruden wants to leave his cushy gig as a Monday Night Football analyst, he would be wise to move to the college game, rather than try his hand at a return to the NFL.
The move from broadcast booth back to the sidelines isn’t a common one, and there’s a reason for that. It’s a hard transition. The best thing a coach can do is just keep working. The time and stress required to lead an NFL team is something most people can’t comprehend. It’s a job with few vacations, few breaks and even less sleep. When Gruden was coaching in the NFL, he would wake up at three in the morning to start planning for his next opponent. NFL coaches frequently work 70 or 80 hour work days.
That’s a big change from working once a week in the broadcast booth on Monday nights. Of course, there’s other work involved with the profession. There’s still tape study and preparation for your next game, but being ill prepared will never be the difference between missing or making the playoffs. Gruden’s new job only requires him to work from August to January, with the rest of the year to do whatever he pleases.
If Gruden wants to get back to coaching, it would be wise to choose the middle ground between the NFL and the broadcast booth — starting a new career as a college head coach. There are reports out there that both Tennessee and Arkansas are interested in Gruden’s services, and he would be wise to take them up on the offers. Arkansas is rumored to be willing to make their next head coach the highest paid in college football, and Tennessee’s offer surely wouldn’t be too far behind. Gruden should jump at the Tennessee offer.
Tennessee’s junior quarterback Tyler Bray could leave for the NFL after this season, especially since no one has emerged as the sure-thing No. 1 quarterback prospect this season. But Bray has struggled to progress from his freshman and sophomore seasons, and would be best served to spend one more year at college. Gruden could be the man to convince him to stay and to get him prepared for the NFL. Bray has all the potential in the world at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds with a big arm, but that upside isn’t turning into production yet.
Tennessee hasn’t won a conference championship or national championship since Tee Martin was at the helm in 1998. They haven’t won the SEC East since 2007. As Tennessee has struggled in the last few years, other SEC teams have emerged as the best in all of college football. Tennessee has seen their conference rivals, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida all take home national titles since 1998, that’s got to hurt for a program as proud as Tennessee.
It wouldn’t exactly be a position without stress in trying to rebuild Tennessee, but it’s a far cry from the amount of criticism he would see if he took one of the higher profile NFL positions. Simply, would you rather deal with Philadelphia Eagles fans or Tennessee Volunteers fans? Exactly.
Gruden should look to Bill Walsh as an example. Walsh left the broadcast booth to coach at Stanford, and led them to a No. 9 ranking in 1992. That option is better than when Mike Ditka returned to coach, only to struggle in New Orleans, or when Bill Parcells did the same in Dallas. And Gruden’s still young at 49 years old. He could follow Pete Carroll’s path and coach at the college level for years, then return to the NFL if he’s still compelled to lead a pro roster.
Gruden’s annual quarterback camp segments on ESPN show how well he works with young quarterbacks. If he could get a hold of Bray, we could be seeing our 2014 No. 1 draft pick.
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