Mark Davis, Raiders again smitten with Jon Gruden, but also Harbaugh

Jon Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998-2001. (USATSI)
Jon Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998-2001. (USATSI)

Raiders owner Mark Davis has tried to lure former head coach Jon Gruden to the team multiple times in the past, league sources said, and remains enamored with the idea of landing him now, having fired head coach Dennis Allen last week. Landing Gruden, however, will continue to be a difficult if not impossible task, and would likely require extreme measures.

   Gruden, who coached the Raiders and then beat them in the Super Bowl after being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, remains a rockstar in the Bay Area, and Davis is at a crossroads as an owner. He’s without a lease or viable stadium option for 2015, struggling to win games and sell his franchise, and with his intent to move to Los Angeles unlikely to get requisite support from the league and his fellow owners, according to NFL sources, his options are limited.

Returning Gruden would immediately alter his perception and provide some leverage in hopes of attacking the many macro issues that dog his franchise, but, as in the past, lacking a viable longterm plan and strong infrastructure are the exact kind of obstacles that have kept coaches with Gruden’s pedigree from going there.

Many who know Gruden well believe he could still very well return to coaching, though many have advised him to continue his very lucrative broadcasting career, which provides a style of life and a flexibility that is totally counter to what his life would be like if he was coaching again. And, much to Davis’ chagrin, while firing Allen does give him a jump on other NFL teams in being able to outwardly woo Gruden, it doesn’t mean he is alone.

  Last year USC and Texas were very interested in Gruden. The University of Tennessee had tried very hard to land him previously and every year numerous NFL teams gauge his interest and make overtures. Given his commitment to ESPN right now, and the fact that Gruden has never been in a hurry to return to coaching anyway, he wouldn’t be making any career change for quite some time until the season ends, anyway, and the idea of anything significant happening in the short term is quite unlikely, sources said, even if Davis put on a full-court press.

   Gruden would obviously require a huge salary (some have suggested $10M a season) and power to restructure the organization. The Raiders job remains one that would always have a unique emotional pull for him, and it is inevitable that Davis will approach him again. Two of the central figures who counsel Davis, John Madden and Ron Wolf, are big Gruden supporters and Gruden, after Allen’s 8-28 tenure and with the future of his franchise more in doubt than ever, is clearly in position to come to Gruden with open arms, but the question remains as to whether he can sell him on the job.

   49ers coach Jim Harbaugh – who remains a candidate to be traded when the season ends and who has prized living in the Bay Area to this point – is also very highly thought of by Davis, sources said, as is Stanford coach David Shaw, who both have Raiders ties. Shaw has continually rebuffed any NFL offers, and seems intent to stay at the college, while dealing for Harbaugh might end up being Davis’s best bet should Gruden decline.

The presence of rookie quarterback Derek Carr on the roster, and his potential. bode well in the process of securing an offensive-minded coach, which many believe is the direction Davis will go to try to provide a more entertaining product for a fanbase that hasn’t had much to cheer for in years.   

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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