EXCLUSIVE: Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has informally discussed the return of Jon Gruden with the former coach and current television analyst.
Multiple sources have confirmed to the Las Vegas Raiders Report tonight that Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has discussed the possibility of Jon Gruden interviewing for the head coaching job during an alleged meeting last week in Philadelphia. Gruden and Davis met informally prior to the Raiders and Eagles meeting on Monday Night Football on Christmas Day – a game Gruden called on ESPN as television analyst.
Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998-2000 compiling a 40-28 record, leading Oakland to one AFC Championship game in 2000.
Our sources confirmed Davis is willing to pony up the type of money Gruden is looking for, but still not the control. An agreement, if Gruden was selected after interviews with other candidates, hinges on a few items Gruden is demanding as part of a return to coaching. That includes control over player personnel and general manager duties, which Davis is not ready to relinquish. Davis is known to have the utmost faith and confidence in current Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, who has been part of the cultural makeover and team turnaround in Oakland the past several seasons.
However, Davis has assured Gruden that, if selected, he would have input on personnel decisions and that McKenzie is perfectly willing to work with him on those issues. Another feeling is that Gruden, and his level of celebrity and personality, could be instrumental in selling PSLs for the new stadium in Las Vegas. The Raiders are hoping to sell at least $250 million dollars worth of PSLs, and Gruden is viewed as the perfect “face” to sell football in Las Vegas.
This is not the first time Davis has flirted with Gruden either. Before Jack Del Rio became the head coach in Oakland, word on the street was that Gruden was offered and turned down the job first. Gruden was content with this television gig and wanted more money and control than Davis was willing to give. Fast forward three years and it appears times have changed.
Gruden is often rumored to be returning to the sideline every since he took on the role as a Monday Night Football analyst. Over the years, these “Grumors” have never come to fruition and are typically dismissed as chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. This time, however, the story has some teeth, according to our sources.
If the Raiders were to make a change at head coach, per the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” they are required to interview minority candidates for the role in addition to anyone else, including Gruden.
Davis has apparently lost trust in Del Rio due to his handling of the team’s struggles in 2017, including the management of offensive coordinator Todd Downing. Although there have been rumors of Del Rio not returning, his departure – and Gruden retaking the Raiders helm as coach – are not a lock yet.
Reports from sources close to the situation assert Davis was lied to about the firing of former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, and the corresponding promotion of Downing to that position. Davis was lobbied heavily that there was serious interest in Downing from other NFL teams to take that role in other locales during last off season. Del Rio and several of his staff sold Davis on the premise the only way to keep Downing was to offer him the Raiders coordinator job. That led to Musgraves ouster and the ascension of the inexperienced Downing, with the results we’ve seen in 2017.
However, apparently that interest was not real. Additionally, it was current Assistant Head Coach of the Offense Mike Tice, who was behind this exaggeration. Tice and Musgrave clashed over the offense in the 2016 season and it appears that Tice was willing to do anything to get Musgrave out and his protege in. Tice gave Downing his first NFL job in Minnesota, and championed his hiring in Oakland. Tice also had widely known and reported issues while with the Minnesota Vikings, leading to Davis’ feelings of mistrust.
Far From a “Done Deal”
In addition to the points made above, and the NFL requirement of teams interviewing head coaching candidates, what are the possibilities of Gruden actually becoming the Raiders coach as early as next week?
We’re told there two probable possibilities:
- Gruden takes the job after formal interviews with him and other qualified candidates, or
- The Raiders will bring back Del Rio, minus the current offensive coaching staff and a new offensive coordinator will be hired and allowed to hire their own offensive staff – from top to bottom.
For now the ball is squarely in Jon Gruden’s court.
Also there is no word yet on the possible fate of interim Defensive Coordinator John Pagano. Pagano has been a bright spot during a tough year and the Raiders defense has been ranked top five since he took the reins of the defense.