Grumors season has been extra long this year. What started with embers around the Tennessee coaching job led the way for the Bucs, and now we’re at the point where the Raiders are apparently gonna make an offer that is awful hard to refuse. Whether Gruden actually would leave is something only he knows, but ESPN needs to at least be considering contingencies if they lose the color analyst on their $1.9 billion package. Here are some who make sense.
The first phone calls, who will probably say no.
Peyton Manning – Manning has been out of football for two years now. There’s a general sense that he would enter a front office in a John Elway roll or even that the Manning family would want to front an ownership group at some point, but neither of those things have happened yet and it’s not like a year or two or more in the MNF booth would disqualify his pursuit of them. He could also do everything else he’s already doing. Nevertheless, ESPN would have to pay him an awful lot of money to do it. Can they back up the Brinks truck in times of austerity? Anything could happen, but my guess is no.
Pete Carroll – While I’ve maintained that the future looks bleak in Seattle and this may be a good time for a clean break for both sides, I don’t believe Carroll is done coaching there. And even if he is, he’d be in high demand and it seems unlikely that he’s done coaching.
Joe Thomas – The Browns just gave him a raise, and he hasn’t indicated his retirement is imminent. But, whenever it happens, he is a slam dunk to be phenomenal in broadcasting. Could ESPN entice him to move up his timetable rather than return to the Browns if a “once-a-decade” top job came open?
Louis Riddick – Riddick is open about wanting to someday return to the league, and interviewed for the Giants’ GM position that ultimately went to Dave Gettleman, but if he doesn’t wind up landing in a front office he’s excelled as a broadcaster at ESPN.
Bruce Arians – Arians seems to be done in Arizona. While he would likely be a candidate to get another job given that there are gonna be more than a half-dozen openings, he is 65 years old and has had some health issues. He is an affable communicator with enough bona fides in coaching that he could certainly jump straight to the booth.
Larry Fitzgerald – Possibly retiring at the end of this season, it would be a good bet that Fitzgerald makes his way into broadcasting. It will be interesting to see whether he heads into the booth or the studio.
Kurt Warner – Warner filled in for Cris Collinsworth twice this season. I’m not sure about his contractual status with NFL Network, but if the timing aligns he would be a great pick for the job.
Rex Ryan – A year ago, Rex would’ve been in prime consideration. But, he hasn’t particularly distinguished himself on ESPN’s NFL Countdown, where he’s generally associated with plummeting ratings this season.
Out of Left-Field
Mike Golic – With Mike & Mike already done, he is a recognizable face that they could plug in there. He would be a pretty good pick if ESPN opted to go with a three-person booth.
Bill Belichick – Belichick is gonna coach until the day he dies and is generally thought of to be a sourpuss. That being said, he knows more about football than everyone else on the planet combined. He loves discussing the nuances of football, in the rare moments where he doesn’t believe that doing so compromises Patriots state secrets. He’d be phenomenal at the job, but it’ll never happen.