Inside the head of football’s greatest nerd

By Karl Taro Greenfeld Photography by Getty Images

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Cindy Gruden is a patient woman. The petite blonde, a former University of Tennessee cheerleader—“I was the girl at the top of the pyramid!”—has wed one Gruden man and raised three Gruden boys. She can get kids to school before the bell and to practice on time and can get dogs walked and cats fed, but the one thing she finally said enough is enough to was fired football coaches showing up at her house at four a.m., ringing the doorbell and then shuffling in and heading to the office of her husband, Jon Gruden, to watch videotape with the Super Bowl–winning ex–Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach and Monday Night Football announcer. They just kept coming, hangdog expressions and collared short-sleeve shirts, still smelling of a hundred miles of car air-conditioning, and Cindy Gruden is a kind woman. She wasn’t going to turn away these tired and broken men who sought out her husband for fellowship and companionship in their time of need.

“I love coaches,” says Cindy. “These are good guys, smart guys, intense guys. But come on, I’ve got a family to run.”

And so Cindy told Jon to find an office outside their home in the gated Avila community. He set off down Tampa’s North Florida Avenue until he came to a forlorn little strip mall grandly named the Florida Professional Group, between Rheem Team AC & Cooling and Austin Septic Systems, where the landlord talked him into paying $900 a month for a one-room office facing a swamp. The carpet is gray, the walls are brown tongue-in-groove and the windows are filthy—not that you’d notice, because the light is awful, and not that Jon cares, because he keeps it dark in there all day anyway to watch game films. He emptied his garage of his videotapes and monitors, set it all up here and started operating what he half jokingly calls the FFCA, the Fired Football Coaches Association.

So Cindy sleeps better. And Jon, well, Jon barely ever sleeps at all.

He’s tried everything: sleeping pills, hypnotism, even drinking himself into a stupor, and none of it worked. He can’t stay down for more than three or four hours a night. A doctor he saw in his 20s examined him and told him there was nothing wrong physically and to view his sleeplessness as “a gift. You just need to find something to do with your free time.”

It turns out being a football coach is a good profession for an insomniac. There’s always more preparation a coach can do, always another play to diagram, always another formation to study.

So this fired Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach is joined, many days, by fellow fired football coaches: Rick Venturi, fired Northwestern head coach; Ron Zook, fired University of Florida and University of Illinois head coach; Jim Leavitt, fired University of South Florida head coach; Doug Williams, fired Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant; plus other college and high school coaches too numerous to mention. They turn up at all hours, tired men, fired men.

Every coach gets fired, Jon Gruden’s dad, Jim Gruden—himself a former assistant coach fired from Notre Dame—has told Jon. So there are plenty of prospective FFCA members. And Jon tells them to get coffee from the gas station down the street because his coffeemaker is broken and to pull out a folding chair from the stack in the corner and sit down and watch some tape with him. Men helping other men by watching football together.

“It’s kind of a support group,” says Leavitt, who has since become the San Francisco 49ers’ linebackers coach. “It keeps you in touch with football after you’re fired, and it’s important emotionally to be around guys who are going through what I went through.”

Gruden would be here anyway, every morning. He’ll watch film with nothing but the palmetto bugs for company. And somehow, the few times a year he comes out of that dark room—to commentate on the NFL draft, to film the show Gruden’s QB Camp for ESPN, to be the lead analyst for Monday Night Football—he brings insight and knowledge that can be gleaned only from spending those long nights by himself in that hot little office, obsessively studying football.

He is our national football nerd, our biggest football geek in a nation gone hypergeeky for pro football. And he does it with what his MNF producer Jay Rothman calls “the Chucky factor,” after the nickname Gruden picked up while coaching the Oakland Raiders. (Chucky is the name of the murderous doll in the Child’s Play slasher films. In 1998, after Gruden chewed out Raiders running back Harvey Williams for blowing a play against Seattle, Williams told reporters that when Gruden yelled he looked like Chucky. The nickname stuck because he does look a little like Chucky—People magazine once naming him among the 50 most beautiful people notwithstanding.) Rothman says that when Gruden gets in the Chucky zone—when all that intense football study combines with his playful, ballbuster persona and he becomes more than just another football broadcaster—he becomes a character, the larger-than-life Chucky who adds excitement and edge to a football broadcast without distracting or alienating fans. (Yes, we’re talking about you, Dennis Miller and Tony Kornheiser.) “He has the qualities of a preacher, coach, motivational speaker and guy sitting at the bar next to you all rolled into one, and he plays those characters while dispensing deep football knowledge. It’s unique packaging,” says his broadcasting partner Mike Tirico. Gruden may already be the most recognizable football broadcaster, and though he is quick to downplay any comparisons to fellow former Raiders head coach and color commentator John Madden, his ESPN bosses are not shy about declaring him “Madden Y2K.”

In recognition of Gruden’s huge potential—“Q-rating off the charts,” says Rothman—the Monday Night Football telecast has been reconfigured this season. Gone is Ron Jaworski, Gruden’s foil and fellow color analyst for the past three seasons. The decision was made, in part, to unleash the Chucky. “You have 25 seconds between plays, and you don’t want guys talking over plays. This gives Jon room to grow,” says Rothman. Jaworski, for his part, says he was disappointed with the decision but understands it. “I think that’s the rationale, that Jon can become a bigger and bigger personality.”

It’s been three years since John Madden retired from Sunday Night Football, leaving a void in the national psyche for everyone’s big, cool, zany football pal. Madden, with his smashing through walls on beer commercials, best-selling books and humorous doodlings on the telestrator, filled that role perfectly and lucratively, earning hundreds of millions from endorsements and his eponymous computer game. Gruden is the only broadcaster with the personality, swagger and natural sense of humor—and Super Bowl–winning credibility—who can fill that gap. “I don’t know about any of that stuff,” Gruden says when asked about it. “I’m trying to get better at this right here, at watching Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ red-zone offense. I’m just a guy in a dark room studying tape, a fired football coach trying to keep up with the game.”

It’s a curious sight, this stocky man with freckled legs, tan shorts, tennis socks and black New Balance sneakers, a video clicker in hand and three Dell notebook computers spread on a glass table before him and a Samsung 42-inch monitor set up next to him. At this hour, four a.m., he is the only person awake within a square mile, the only soul within a half-mile, the only tenant of this strip mall who turns up before dawn, parks his white Mercedes next to the swamp, tears open a pack of spearmint Dentyne and begins grinding through eight straight hours of parsing football plays with Talmudic intensity.

A strange thing happens when you spend time with Gruden. You start to talk like him, even to think like him. He wears you down with his steady football banter, and after a few hours he has you memorizing formations and plays. What are the strong-side flanker formations? (East, west, far west, trips and far trips.) What are the weak-side formations? (South, north, wing, far double-wing and lurk. I actually remember the answers from my hours in his office.) And you start trying to memorize these terms and to recognize formations in part to try to please him, because he takes such evident pleasure in explaining the technical aspects of football—he feels he is sharing with you some profound wisdom that he does not understand how you got this far in life without possessing.

When you’re on the receiving end of his football lectures, when he gets into the Chucky zone, it’s almost hard to keep a straight face as he leans toward you while he talks, an evil grin on his face, waving his hands around, taking off his reading glasses and pointing them at you; he’s mugging and pulling a rat face and his jaw is clenching and he is squinting and crinkling his eyebrows and then scrunching his nose and then smirking and widening his eyes and—I swear—wiggling his ears. His straw-colored hair is flapping up and down on his pink forehead and he is frowning, angry, frustrated, depressed, defeated, deflated, pissed off and then, suddenly, delighted because you have finally memorized the correct flanker formations.

Gruden prepares for his Monday Night Football telecasts with the same intensity. “I’ll wake up and look at my phone, and there will be texts from him time-stamped 4:13 a.m. telling me to go back and watch the New Orleans tape for something he’s found,” says Tirico. “On game day, in production meetings it’s like he’s getting ready to coach the Super Bowl.”

MNF producer Rothman adds, “He’s wound so tight, he’s a difficult dude to talk to before we go on the air. He gets in the Chucky zone—he’s pacing around; he doesn’t want anyone near him. He’s as intense and fired up as if he were on the sideline again.”

Jim Gruden, 75, recalls the five-year-old Jon waking up at 3:30 a.m., coming down and standing by his and his wife Kathy’s bed and staring at his sleeping parents. “It was strange,” says Jim Gruden. “I’d open my eyes and he’d be right there, sort of watching us. I’d grab him and bring him back up to his room.”

The middle of three brothers, Jon wasn’t as smart as his older brother, Jim, or as athletic as his younger brother, Jay. Jim was a straight-A student at Clay High School in South Bend, Indiana who would go on to become a radiologist. Jay, a few inches taller and a few steps faster, would be a Division I record-setting quarterback at the University of Louisville. “It got under my skin a little bit,” Jon says of competing with his younger brother. “One time, after I lost a mile race to him, he said to me, ‘You’re nothing but a Division III backup scrub.’ That’s what he said! Oh, he was always a better athlete than I was. That burned me a little. Still burns me up.”

Jay Gruden, who is the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, laughs when he hears Jon’s confession. “I think what bothers him the most was that as hard as he worked—and nobody worked out harder or threw more footballs—I was the better athlete and didn’t work nearly as hard as Jon.”

Jon recalls being a distracted student. “I was always thinking about football. And I didn’t see how history or algebra was going to further my understanding of football.” Yet when he took the SAT, he surprised his classmates by outscoring his A-student peers. “He’s always had this photographic memory,” his father says.

Combine all those attributes and environmental factors—good but not great athlete, son of a coach, fantastic memory, insomnia—and you just may have created the single human being most perfectly suited to becoming a football coach. So when Gruden was a senior in high school and told his father that’s what he wanted to do, his dad was not in any way surprised. He gave him the best advice a coaching father could give a coaching son: Don’t be a running-backs coach; be a quarterbacks coach. Those are the guys who develop an understanding of the whole offense and can become offensive coordinators—the usual path to a head-coaching position.

When Jon was wrapping up his career as a “Division III backup scrub” quarterback at the University of Dayton, his father called Walt Harris, offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee, and urged him to interview his son for a graduate assistant position. Jon was hired. He asked his professors in Dayton to accelerate his courses so he could graduate early, and he moved to Tennessee for the first of nine coaching positions as he commenced the migratory life of an American football coach. After two seasons in Knoxville he moved on to Southeast Missouri State and then to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He had met Cindy in Tennessee while she was on the cheerleading squad, and they managed to keep their long-distance relationship going through each of Jon’s far-flung coaching jobs, with Jon driving back to Knoxville from Cape Girardeau, Missouri or Cindy flying out to see him in Stockton, California.

In 1990 Mike Holmgren, who at the time was offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and would go on to coach a Super Bowl–winning Green Bay Packers team, was looking for a quality-control assistant just a couple of hours away from Stockton. Gruden’s father, Jim, was then a scout for the 49ers and asked Holmgren to meet with his son. “You could say I’m trying to give nepotism a good name,” Jon Gruden jokes about his career.

Holmgren met with the 26-year-old assistant and hired him for $800 a month. “I asked him if he knew how to use computers,” says Holmgren. “It was 1990 and we were going to start drawing plays on the computer, but nobody knew how to do that. I told Jon he had to learn. I was going on vacation and told him he had one month.”

By the time Holmgren came back, Gruden was, Holmgren says, “a whiz kid.”

But Gruden was sleeping in his car out in the parking lot. Or on a sofa outside owner Eddie DeBartolo’s office. Holmgren was worried about his young charge. “I didn’t think any human being could survive that long like that, without sleeping.”

Gruden was too excited to sleep. These were the 49ers built by Bill Walsh and quarterbacked by Joe Montana and Steve Young. Gruden spent every waking hour, and there were a lot of them, soaking up the West Coast offense pioneered by Walsh. He was the young, eager apprentice in the engine room of the greatest offensive juggernaut ever. And his job, inputting the plays Holmgren devised after meetings with Joe Montana, put him in a unique position to understand the most sophisticated passing offense ever. “For a kid who wanted to be a football coach, it was like going to Harvard,” says Gruden.

Gruden left the 49ers to become an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh, heeding his father’s advice to work with quarterbacks. After a year in Pittsburgh, Gruden joined Holmgren as he took on his first head-coaching job in Green Bay, where as a wide-receivers coach Gruden worked with Sterling Sharpe and a young quarterback named Brett Favre. It was a star-studded coaching staff, including future head coaches Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid and Steve Mariucci. When Rhodes was hired to take over the Philadelphia Eagles, he tapped Gruden to become his offensive coordinator.

After a few years in Philadelphia, Gruden got a call from the legendary Al Davis to meet with him about a head-coaching job with the Oakland Raiders. Gruden, who does very good impersonations, can do a pitch-perfect Al Davis Brooklyn accent. Davis nicknamed Gruden “Butch.”

“Butch,” Gruden says, doing his Davis impression, “who is the third cornah-back fuh the San Diego Chahge-ahs?”

And Gruden, who had memorized every player in the league, could answer, “Terrence Jones.”

“Where’s he frum?”

“Tulane.”

In Davis, Gruden had met someone as obsessive about football as he was. The two spent entire days—and nights—at the whiteboard, diagramming plays. Gruden had the habit of using a blue marker for the offense, red for the defense and green for the blocking schemes. (Gruden also prides himself on being able to draw perfect circles, these being the basic symbol used when drawing up plays on the board.) At one point Davis stopped Gruden while he was explaining how his offense would pick up a corner blitz.

“Lemme ask you somethin’, Butch. Why are you changin’ crayons? Is there somethin’ wrong with them?”

Gruden explained he was using different colors for different sides of the ball.

“Doncha know I’m color-blind, Butch?”

Davis eventually gave Gruden his first head-coaching job. The two men were a perfect match of like-minded football freaks. In fact, Davis was the only person who seemed to sleep less than Gruden, calling up the coach at nine p.m. or later to talk about what he had seen in practice that day. “I finally had to tell him enough, okay, enough,” says Gruden. “I’m in my underwear, my wife is pregnant, we’ve got kids in the bed with us, and he wants me to go downstairs and turn on the practice film.” By then Jon and Cindy had had the first two of their three sons—Jon the second, or Deuce, as he’s nicknamed, and Michael.

In Oakland Gruden really entered the Chucky zone, casting his famous sour-faced looks when a player blew an assignment or a referee blew a call, and mouthing a stream of steady, salty banter. CBS analyst Rich Gannon, then a Raiders quarterback, recalls a film session with Gruden and backup quarterbacks Bobby Hoying and Rodney Peete. The three of them were watching tape of Seahawks running back Ricky Watters shredding a defense with a series of cutbacks. Gruden started praising Watters, saying how the Raiders could use a runner like him. “How do you like that Watters? What do you think, Bobby? Would you like to see Watters in a Raiders uniform?”

“Sure would, Coach,” said Hoying.

Gruden continued, “What would you do to get Ricky Watters to come to the Raiders? How bad do you want him, Bobby?”

“What do you mean?”

“Would you suck Ricky Watters’s dick to get him in a Raiders uniform?”

“What?”

“Would you suck his dick to get him in a Raiders uniform? I would. That’s how bad I want Ricky Watters on my team. That’s your problem, Bobby. You don’t want it bad enough to suck his dick.” By then, the three quarterbacks were hunched over laughing.

“He sort of used humor to loosen us up,” says Gannon.

It worked. Gruden thrived in Oakland, taking the Raiders to back-to-back AFC West titles, losing to Tom Brady and the Patriots on the famous tuck-rule call in the Snow Bowl of 2002.

Gruden’s departure from Oakland, however, was controversial, and he became the last coach in NFL history to be traded. After Oakland’s loss to New England, Davis and Gruden’s agent, Bob LaMonte, had agreed to a contract extension, but when LaMonte received the faxed copy of the contract to look over, he had to tell Gruden it wasn’t what they had agreed to. The Raiders had changed the terms, giving Gruden less money and less job security. “My agent recommended I didn’t sign it,” Gruden says. “I figured I would coach my option year and then see what happens.”

At midnight Davis called Gruden and said he had traded him to Tampa Bay for two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $8 million.

Gruden, who remained fond of Davis (who passed away last year), believes he angered Davis by talking to Notre Dame about the possibility of becoming head coach of the Fighting Irish. For Gruden, whose parents were living in Tampa Bay, the disappointment of leaving the Raiders, a team he helped build into a contender, was offset by taking over a winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that already had perhaps the best defense in the NFL—loaded with veterans Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice—but had not yet made it to the Super Bowl.

“He won our respect pretty damn quickly,” says Brooks, a captain on the 2003 Super Bowl–winning squad. “He came in and said, ‘You guys are good, you guys are dominant, but you know what? You haven’t won squat.’ And he said from now on it was going to be a war between his offense and the defense. He just attacked us. We loved that.”

He also brought a much-needed dose of humor to Tampa Bay. At one point, before a flight to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers during that Super Bowl campaign in 2002, he told his players, “If you want to be dominant, you have to go into an enemy city, into their backyard, and take what you want. If you want to be the man, you don’t ask, you just do. We’re going to eat in their restaurants and leave without paying the check. We’re going to take their best-looking women and load ’em onto our plane and take ’em back to Tampa. We’re…we’re going to park in their best parking spaces!”

“Coach was always cracking us up like that,” says Brooks.

Gruden is a not a vindictive man, but Chucky is certainly competitive, and he gained some satisfaction from demolishing Al Davis’s Raiders in the 2003 Super Bowl.

Gruden steers his five-year-old Mercedes out of the parking lot and heads down North Florida Avenue, pulling into a gas station and noting the police car idling in the lot. The police stopped by his office once, suspecting a drug deal when they saw his car there in the middle of the night.

He parks and walks into the minimart, and the guy behind the counter shoots him a way-too-cheery-for-five a.m. “Hey, Coach!”

Gruden, who was fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly four years ago, smiles back. The firing came as a shock to him. He had won the Super Bowl in 2003, was coming off a winning season in 2008, had a career coaching record of 95 wins and 81 losses and had just signed a three-year extension. Nonetheless, the Buccaneers let him go.

He describes that period of being fired as “going into the ditch. I got a little bit lost there. I sulked. I felt a little bit worthless. Here was this thing that I was more passionate about than anything else in the world, and it was taken away from me. I was sort of embarrassed, ashamed.”

He did what he always does when he gets down on himself: He called his dad. “I told him two things,” says Jim Gruden. “Save your money, and you’re not a real coach until you’ve been fired.”

“My mental toughness was tested,” says Jon Gruden. “I loved football, and it was taken away from me. You turn in your dealer car, your office keys. And you can’t watch your tapes anymore.”

Gruden came home and became a regular presence at his kids’ Little League games and peewee football practices. But how does a man who doesn’t need much sleep fill 20 or so hours a day? “It was strange to finally get to know my husband,” jokes Cindy Gruden.

There was no football-related issue too small for Gruden’s consideration. When his friend and former Buccaneer quarterback Brad Johnson found himself coaching fifth-grade football, he began sending Gruden his game plans. “He would send back plays we should run. ‘Weak left west U shift F short 2 U banana Z over, and then audible 358 slow or H 2 Miami, and if you don’t like what you see, you got a time-out in your pocket.’ That’s what he’s telling me to run,” says Johnson. “And these are fifth-graders.”

When the NFL Network called Gruden in 2009 and asked him to cover the scouting combine, he initially refused, still too embarrassed to be around fellow coaches who would all know he had been fired. But he went, and his honest evaluations of talent were immediately noticed—by NFL Network’s competitors over at ESPN. “Oh, I wanted him badly,” says Jay Rothman. Over several hours of drinks at Gramercy Tavern in New York, Rothman wooed Gruden, telling him he believed Gruden could be the next superstar in the booth. For a trial run, they put Gruden in a booth alongside Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski for mock telecasts of taped games. Rothman reviewed the tapes and sent Gruden his critique.

“He was honest with me,” Gruden says. “He told me, ‘Look, you called plays for 15 years in this league. Don’t hold back. Don’t talk when the quarterback is over the ball. Lay off after a scoring play. Don’t be over-the-top technical.’ But the main thing was they told me I would get to study film, all the film I wanted. I can study the Bengals and the Ravens all day if I want. I can look at tapes all day.”

He signed the contract.

The only requirement for membership in the FFCA is to be an active or fired football coach—because active coaches will eventually be fired coaches. Gruden jokingly plays up the support-group aspect of the FFCA, but what is remarkable is how grateful the various members are for Gruden’s tutelage. His remarkable success as a coach gives him credibility as a mentor to fired coaches, but his post-coaching success makes him a hero to fired sideline generals. “The fact that Jon is succeeding at broadcasting, at being a former coach, is interesting to a former coach,” says Ron Zook, fired coach from Illinois and Florida.

It was Gruden’s way of dealing with a genuine emotional and intellectual need for fired coaches to stay in touch with football, to have a place to watch film and talk about the game, that inspired him to set up the FFCA. It has become an essential tool for some coaches to deal with the career mortality that is a part of the game.

“It gave me this opportunity to stay busy,” says Zook. “You’re getting up early in the morning, you’re watching film, you’re doing the things you’re familiar with—but you are also learning a ton. He’s like a philosopher, and that place is like a black hole. You are having this constant, very high-level dialogue about football and offensive systems that keeps you totally up on the game.”

Plenty of coaches have emerged from their time in the FFCA to regain employment as coaches, including Leavitt, who is now a linebackers coach with the 49ers, and former Buccaneers assistant (and Super Bowl MVP) Doug Williams, who is now head coach at Grambling State University. Gruden, who keeps a stack of boxes of FFCA hats and visors next to the toilet, explains, “Hey, when I was fired, I wanted to disappear for a while. I needed a place like this, so I had to make it up.”

“It’s a place to come to refresh, to release all the things that have happened to you,” says Rick Venturi, former Northwestern head coach and interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. “He created this safe place for fired coaches.”

But after spending a few days at the FFCA it becomes clear that Jon Gruden has also devised a perfect system for keeping up-to-date on the game. He has a parade of college and professional coaches—and college quarterbacks—passing through, talking about how their offenses work, discussing the nuances of their play calling. The list of active coaches who have come through is staggering: Chip Kelly of the University of Oregon, Urban Meyer when he was at the University of Florida, Derek Dooley of the University of Tennessee, Jim Haslett of the Washington Redskins. The FFCA has become, in the words of Venturi, “the best think tank in football.” Gruden now knows more about college football, after nearly four years of working with fired and active college coaches, than he ever has, and he keeps a close watch on the NFL draft for ESPN’s coverage every year. In other words, as a noncoach, he knows more about football than most active coaches—and he doesn’t have to travel the country to stay informed, because the greatest football minds come to him. “If Gruden gets a job in the NFL tomorrow, he is prepared right now,” says Doug Williams. “He is there every day at four a.m. Ready? How can you be more ready?”

Jon and Cindy are sitting at a square table on the clubhouse patio of the golf course behind their home. They live on the 11th hole, and Jon usually drives a golf cart from the house up to the first tee. “After I play nine, I like to have a few beers, take the cart out for a spin.”

Their youngest son, Jayson, has made his way over to the driving range for a lesson. The two older boys, Deuce and Michael, have just finished a workout in the weight room. Deuce is built like his father, short and stocky, and he can bench-press double his own weight. A powerful athlete, he’s attending Lafayette College, where he plays football.

“Hey, you guys want to go to the Poison concert tonight?” Gruden asks his sons.

They return blank expressions. “Um.…”

“Come on! Poison!” Gruden likes his hair metal, and tonight Def Leppard, Poison and Lita Ford have brought their Rock of Ages tour to Tampa. “And Lita Ford! Oh man, we gotta get there early. I don’t want to miss Lita Ford.”

Deuce nods. He’s mastered letting his father’s rare enthusiasms for anything besides football bounce off him. He mumbles something about being invited to Adventure Island, a local water park.

The boys retreat, and Jon and Cindy order lunch. Cindy runs the Gruden household; Jon, according to Cindy, can’t even change a water filter. She likes to joke that her husband does football, “and I do everything else.”

That’s why she had to banish him to his strip-mall office, which she admits is not the most luxurious environment. “But at least there’s toilet paper over there now,” she says, smiling. Then she looks at Jon. “Right? There is, right?”

Gruden nods in a manner evocative of his sons’ response to the Poison invitation.

Almost every head-coaching vacancy in the NFL or with a major college football team is accompanied by speculation that Gruden is under consideration for the job. He is coy when asked about a return to coaching, predictably saying he wants to become as good at broadcasting as he can so that’s what he’s focusing on. Gruden seems aware there may be more of an upside, and a far more comfortable lifestyle, to reaching the top of the broadcasting profession, at least while his boys are still around. Still, if the right team with the right quarterback came calling at the right time, America might lose Chucky as an announcer for a few seasons.

When asked if her husband is happier broadcasting than he was coaching, Cindy pauses and then says, “Sometimes I think Jon has two monsters on his shoulder. One is go back to coaching, and the other is stay with this, have a nice life with his family. He’ll always have those two monsters.”

Gruden nods, seems to think it over and shrugs. “At least, no matter what happens, I’ll have tape to watch—and a seat at the FFCA.”


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