Every time there's a coaching vacancy -- and even sometimes when there isn't -- Jon Gruden's name invariably pops up as a possible candidate. Gruden coached for 11 seasons in Oakland and Tampa Bay, and won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers following the 2002 season. But he was fired by the Bucs in January 2009, and by May of that year he was hired by ESPN to serve as color commentator for Monday Night Football. And for the last eight years, that's where he has remained.
But the speculation about Gruden's return to the sideline continues, partly because he was successful in his previous stint (95-81 in those 11 seasons), and partly because Gruden admits that he is preparing to coach again.
"I've met with several people -- I won't deny that," Gruden told PewterReport.com's Scott Reynolds and Trevor Sikkema. "People - just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I'm not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I'm preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I'm preparing to come back.
"It helps me in my broadcasting and I think if you lose that edge … you can't come back unless you are totally wired with college football, personnel, schemes, the CBA, how people are practicing, trends, you know. You've got stay on top of this stuff."
Gruden might love -- and miss -- coaching, but he is also fond of his current gig.
"I love ESPN," he said. "I mean I love what I'm doing. I'm with a great team -- a great group of guys. I'm still real close to the game. I still stay in contact with a lot of players and coaches at the league at every level. I don't know if [all the talk] is flattering or irritating. I don't really pay attention to a lot of it. But I am -- every year -- preparing myself to coach. Sometimes I show up at camp and I show up in the offseason and people let me coach. I jump in drills and they still let me install plays and call plays at some places. I still have a lot of fun."
One thing that almost certainly won't happen: Gruden has no plans to be a college coach, even though that's what he thought he wanted shortly after the Bucs fired him.
"I was very determined to be a college coach. Then I realized that if I became a college coach I would probably have you on probation within four or five weeks," he said. "Too many rules, man. I mean I like to work. I don't like to be working 15 hours a week with players. The recruiting, Facebook, texting, e-mails -- all that stuff. Yeah, I'd probably have you in real deep, deep trouble if I was your college coach."
To recap: Gruden, who turns 54 in August, very much intends to coach again. All that's left to sort out are the wheres and whens.