Jon Gruden is back in the coaching rumor carousel once again. Last year the former NFL coach was mentioned prominently as a name to watch at Tennessee. Now the rumor mill has placed Gruden in the mix at Texas. If you are following along on Twitter, the hashtag is appropriate and catchy: #Grumors.
Gruden’s name popping up for coaching jobs seems to happen every offseason, but the Ohio native has a pretty cushy job – and a nice contract – in the Monday Night Football booth.
Is it just rumor or is there some truth to the Gruden to Texas rumors? My guess is its somewhere in the middle.
Gruden hasn’t coached since he was fired at Tampa Bay in 2008. Yes, that is five seasons ago. Also, Gruden hasn’t coached in college since 1991. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then.
A week ago, Athlon Sports posted a look at the top 10 candidates to replace Mack Brown at Texas. Gruden isn’t on our list, but if he’s interested, Texas will inquire.
Although Gruden might be interested in coming to Texas, the Longhorns would be wise to look in another direction. Sure, Gruden has a Super Bowl ring and is 95-81 at two different NFL stops. But for a program like Texas, is Gruden the right fit? Shouldn’t Texas target candidates with recent head coaching experience in college football?
Gruden will end up coaching once again, but our guess is it’s in the NFL – not on the sidelines in Austin.
Five Reasons Why Jon Gruden Would be a Bad Fit at Texas
1. Lack of College Experience
It’s one thing to coach in the NFL, but it’s another to win in the college ranks. UCLA’s Jim Mora is 18-8 in two years, but Bill Callahan was just 27-22 in four seasons at Nebraska. Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino each had success after spending time in the NFL, but both coaches got their start on the collegiate level. There’s no doubt coaches that come from the NFL can bring a lot of knowledge to a program, however, it’s not always easy relating to the players. Trying to implement a complicated offense is much easier in the NFL, especially since collegiate athletes have fewer hours to spend in the film room. Considering Gruden’s lack of head coaching experience in college, there would certainly be a transition period – and it may not be pretty early on – for Texas. Adapting to the college game takes time and even though Gruden has been intrigued by the no-huddle, spread offenses, he was a West Coast disciple in the NFL. Could he blend the two schemes together? Or would he revert to the West Coast? At Texas, the Longhorn Network requires some extra attention by the head coach in terms of media obligations. Also, there's the booster meet and greets that the head coach has to attend. Even though Gruden has been a good addition to the Monday Night Football booth, the extra media obligations and booster attention may be something he is not interested in taking on.
2. An Eye to the NFL?
Even if Gruden jumps at the opportunity to coach at Texas or anywhere else in the collegiate ranks, what’s to stop him from getting back into the NFL? Contracts for college football coaches usually mean very little, and Gruden could spend two years in college, then choose to depart for the NFL. Texas should be able to offer a hefty contract and could put provisions into the deal to protect the program from a coach leaving after a year or two. However, you never know how long a coach is going to stick around, but considering Gruden’s NFL background and how he exited, it’s a safe bet that he wants another shot. If Gruden was hired at Texas and left after two years, there’s no question the Longhorns would have a long list of interested coaches. However, transitioning from one coach to another, especially one with different styles, can set the program back a few years.
3. Recruiting and Building a Coaching Staff
Gruden could probably recruit successfully off of his name only, at least for the first two or three years of his college tenure. However, what happens after that has to be a concern. It’s been over 20 years since Gruden had to hit the recruiting trail. And this isn’t just a six-month process – it lasts all season. Gruden is a relentless worker and there’s always the fear he could get burned out after just a few seasons. The former NFL coach would also have to put together a staff that would be good recruiters, but that shouldn’t be an issue at Texas where money is plentiful. Building a staff without many college connections isn’t easy, and a collection of NFL assistants wouldn't necessarily work at Texas.
4. The West Coast Offense
The spread and high-scoring offenses are becoming the norm in college football, and there’s always been doubt the West Coast offense can work outside of the NFL. Although Gruden’s offense at Oakland finished three times in the top 10 of scoring offense, his teams at Tampa Bay never finished higher than 18th in the NFL in total offense. Obviously, it’s a different league, so it’s hard to take a lot away from those statistics. And of course, total offense numbers aren’t necessarily the best indicator of success. However, it’s also important to note 59 of the 125 teams in the nation are averaging at least 30 points a game, with 13 scoring at least 40 points per contest. Even though Alabama owns one of the nation’s best defenses, the Crimson Tide are averaging 38.8 points a game. Florida State – the No. 1 team in the nation – ranks third nationally in total defense and sixth in total offense. Again, those totals for Alabama and Florida State aren't necessarily the best indicator of success, but it showcases how some of the top teams in the nation are built. While Gruden’s background on offense is appealing, implementing a West Coast offense takes a lot of time. Nebraska (Bill Callahan) and Syracuse (Greg Robinson) implemented a similar scheme with limited results. During his time in the NFL, Gruden’s playbook might have been one of the deepest in the league. Although the schemes, plays and formations have worked in NFL, there’s simply no way Gruden can copy that offense in college. It’s not impossible for the West Coast offense to work in college, but Gruden would have to do a lot of simplifying to his playbook and be willing to adapt to more of a spread approach.
5. Too Difficult to Play For?
There’s no question Gruden would bring passion and energy to the sideline or to any program, but that may not translate well at the college level. Criticism is most players least favorite word, but NFLers are more likely to handle it better than college athletes. Although Gruden’s intensity could be a good thing for some players who have underachieved or aren’t putting in the proper hours, it’s a very fine line to walk with college players who don’t have the amount of time NFL players can put into perfecting their game. Gruden could land at a college and work out just fine. However, if he gets the reputation of being too difficult or too demanding to play for, his tenure will go south in a hurry. On name value alone, Gruden would have coaches lining up to join his staff. However, he’s a relentless worker. Would assistant coaches eventually get burned out from working with him?