ALAMEDA — Jon Gruden acknowledged his candidacy for the Raiders head coaching job Tuesday in a phone interview.
“My understanding is they’re interviewing candidates this week and they’re going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision,” Gruden said.
Asked specifically if he was a candidate, Gruden said, “Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I’m a candidate.”
Gruden last coached in 2008 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has rejected overtures each year to return. It has been almost 20 years that Gruden was hired on Jan. 8, 1998 to be head coach of the Raiders, for whom he coached through the 2001 season.
Since being fired by the Bucs, Gruden has worked as a television analyst, working on ESPN’s Monday Night Football as well as hosting a series on prospective NFL quarterbacks. He will work Saturday’s NFL wild card game between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Raiders abruptly fired coach Jack Del Rio Sunday one year into a four-year contract extension following a 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Carson.
Gruden’s candidacy was first reported by ESPN, and he didn’t confirm or deny it in reports Saturday night. His confirmation Tuesday is the first public acknowledgment that he could return to the place where he started his career as the NFL’s youngest head coach at age 34.
The Raiders have restricted their public comments to a statement to attributed to owner Mark Davis an hour after Del Rio’s firing. In it he thanked Del Rio and his family for service. Davis said Tuesday the Raiders had no comment beyond the initial statement.
Del Rio, who was 25-23 in three seasons, was the ninth coach the Raiders have hired since late owner Al Davis traded Gruden to Tampa Bay, following Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen and Tony Sparano.
Before hiring Gruden, the Raiders would need to interview a minority candidate to satisfy the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” or be subject to a fine.
Gruden has reportedly been contacting prospective assistant coaches, and current Raiders assistants were told they could get out of their contracts or begin looking for other jobs.
Being a prospective head coach for the Raiders will make this week’s production meeting for the NFL wild-card game interesting, considering one of the coaches is Andy Reid from AFC West rival Kansas City. In those meetings, inside information is typically exchanged to better prepare the broadcast team.
Gruden and Reid worked together on Mike Holmgren’s staff before each eventually ascended to head coaching positions.
“They played my brother (Jay) on Monday Night Football once too, so there will be some awkward moments and we’re probably going to laugh a little bit about it, but that’ll be cool,” Gruden said. “If I have to sit in the truck with my eyes closed, so be it.”
If Gruden comes aboard, to be determined would be the role of general manager Reggie McKenzie. They both worked for the Green Bay Packers in 1994, when Gruden was in his last year as wide receivers coach and McKenzie joined the Packers’ personnel department.
A point of contention when Gruden left the Raiders was that while he was fine with Al Davis running the draft, he wanted control of hiring his own coaching staff and the 53-man roster.
The kind of mega-deal that it could take to land Gruden — it could be twice the reported $5 million Del Rio was making — would seemingly give him power in all areas of the football operation.