Two days after the Oakland Raiders axed coach Jack Del Rio minutes after their season-ending loss, Jon Gruden's name is the only one being mentioned as a possible replacement. But the ESPN color commentator played dumb Tuesday when asked whether he was being courted by Oakland.
"My understanding is they're interviewing candidates this week," Gruden told the Bay Area News Group, "and they're going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision."
When asked directly if he was a candidate, Gruden said, "Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I'm a candidate."
Oakland has been circling Gruden like a hawk since Saturday when NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Raiders would fire Del Rio if pursuing Gruden was a credible option, and that the Raiders would offer the former Raiders and Buccaneers coach upwards of $10 million annually and an ownership stake in the team. Rapoport added that Gruden was assembling a coaching staff in anticipation of returning to coaching, one that includes his former QB, Rich Gannon.
So why, considering how obvious the match is, is Gruden being coy about talk of his inevitable assumption of the Oakland head coaching job? The Raiders must comply with the "Rooney Rule" and interview at least one minority candidate during the hiring process. If it is determined that Oakland resolved its decision before complying with the rule, the organization might be subject to a fine.
Gruden's Raiders candidacy also complicates his current job status as Monday Night Football color commentator. ESPN still has one last NFL game to broadcast this season, Saturday afternoon's wild-card clash between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs. Being that Oakland is one of K.C.'s fiercest rivals, Chiefs coach, and Gruden's former co-worker, Andy Reid might have reservations about letting Gruden grill him in pre-production meetings.
Gruden was not worried about his involvement in Saturday's broadcast and is willing to wait out this awkward hiring process.
"[The Chiefs] played my brother [Jay] on Monday Night Football once, too," Gruden explained, "so there will be some awkward moments and we're probably going to laugh a little bit about it, but that'll be cool.
"If I have to sit in the truck with my eyes closed, so be it."