Hey, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher, don't quit your day job!
No, seriously guys, I mean that with all due respect. You would be crazy to leave your respective broadcasting gigs and come back to coaching—seriously crazy, crazier than the faces you guys are famous for making on the sidelines.
Just stay away.
Coaching carousel rumors in both the NFL and college football have linked Gruden to many teams over the years. Most recently, he's reportedly been heading to both the Oakland Raiders (via CBS' Dan Bernstein) and the Tennessee Volunteers. Cowher's name comes up every offseason since he's left Pittsburgh. This year, he is supposedly a dark-horse candidate for the University of Kentucky job (via Mark Story of kentucky.com).
Don't do it, either of you. Why would you even think about it?
I spoke with James Miller, author of Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN about what Gruden means to the network:
ESPN has made it clear how much they value Gruden. They've given him their most expensive air time. They got rid of Jaworski in the booth. Jay Rothman (MNF Producer) would probably take a bullet for him—he's that loyal and holds him in such high regard.
Just last year, Gruden signed a five-year extension with ESPN. His salary is rumored to be over $4 million annually, and ESPN reaffirmed his commitment to Pro Football Talk when coaching buzz started earlier this year.
ESPN clearly doesn't want Gruden to leave. While Chris Berman is the network's standard bearer and Skip Bayless is the face of their "Embrace Debate" debacle, Gruden is becoming what people think of when they think of MNF.
Gruden is not irreplaceable, but ESPN has clearly positioned him as an important face of their NFL coverage.
Cowher is admittedly less integral for CBS, but important all the same. I asked sports media analyst Ken Fang (via email) about Cowher's place on CBS:
In regards to Cowher, he's the only coach on The NFL Today and provides an insight that neither Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino nor Shannon Sharpe can. In addition, he can stay in the game and keep sharp without having to worry about wins and losses.
Cowher is one of the better analysts on the panel and doesn't go overboard. He doesn't make himself stand out by dressing loud or yelling. He provides his opinions and allows others to do the yelling. And he doesn't have anything to prove in coaching anymore.
While details are less clear about his pay as a pregame analyst, Cowher is certainly comfortable after purchasing a $2.65 million condo overlooking Central Park. Perhaps more importantly, he has some free time to enjoy that home.
It would be misleading to pretend that Gruden and Cowher only work a few hours on Sunday mornings. The NFL truly is a year-round news grabber, and anyone in sports media that isn't working constantly probably isn't going to last very long. Alongside their main jobs on MNF and The NFL Today, Gruden and Cowher (like any television personality) are in constant production meetings, plus doing TV and radio interviews or traveling.
It may look easy to sit on a stool in a tailored suit and talk football, but these guys work hard. They're both important cogs in their respective multi-billion-dollar operations and are well-compensated for their hard work.
All that said, the pressures of a media job pale in comparison to what those men dealt with as NFL head coaches.
Football coaches (good ones, at least) work around the clock. Then, they somehow manage to get even more done. They are already watching film as their families wake up for breakfast, supervising weightlifting sessions as their children grow up without them and spending endless late nights at the team facility to find a competitive edge.
That's at the high school level.
Once a coach reaches the major college or NFL level, things get even crazier as they take on duties like press conferences, media calls, booster sessions, recruiting or free-agency visits, scouting, etc.
Many amazing football minds have failed to reach the mountaintop as head coaches, not because they weren't good enough, but because they didn't have the energy, time management skills or support around them to manage that massive workload.
Even for coaches determined to maintain balance, the number of hours required by the job has become staggering. It doesn't matter if you're an assistant trying to become a head coach or a head coach trying not to become an assistant again—the workload is monstrous. From July to January, coaches work without a day off, putting in 12- to 16-hour days at least five times a week. Typically, six or more days pass without quality contact with their families.
Oh, and sorry, Tennessee or Kentucky fans, SEC football isn't much better.
Do you really think chasing Nick Saban is a nine-to-five job? No, anyone who takes those gigs will be burning the same midnight oil and running themselves ragged in the same way as those coaches Fleming describes above.
So, what could entice Gruden and Cowher out of the booth? Simple: They would have to be crazy.
If Gruden or Cowher goes back to coaching, it would be a clear signal that they love the game of football more than their health and well-being.
It would be like winning the lottery and saying, "Naw, I'll go back to the coal mines."
Loving your job is admirable, but when your job can kill you, it probably isn't loving you back.
Think coaching can't kill? It almost got Urban Meyer as head coach of the Florida Gators. While Meyer's chest pains are often the most cited example of why he left Florida, he was also dealing with insomnia, fatigue, numbness, tingling all over his body, high levels of stress and panic attacks.
He was winning!
If, at the top of his game, Meyer was consumed and unable to concentrate on life, what do you think it could do to Gruden and Cowher coming in and trying to turn a franchise or program around?
Yet Meyer came back. Meyer came back to a program that (at least seemingly) needed to be turned around. Meyer came back to football, leaving ESPN, to help resurrect Ohio State from the ashes of its tattoo scandal.
And Meyer is reportedly balancing work and home life much better this time around. He even signed a contract with his family that he would not get too caught up in the game. Maybe, just maybe, there's a light at the end of the tunnel for Gruden and Cowher coaching rumors. If Meyer can change, maybe they could too.
Miller actually laid out that possibility for Gruden:
As far as I know, Gruden has never had a firm offer from an NFL team since he's been at ESPN. One thing that's clear about Gruden is that he absolutely loves the game. As a result, you wonder: would he be tempted?
Why chance it though?
Gruden and Cowher don't have anything left to prove in the NFL (and certainly not at the college level). Why put themselves, their families, through another move? Why shake up their lives for nothing more than money—something of which they both have plenty?
Stay away, far away, Gruden. Don't ever think about coming back, Cowher. The game hasn't left you behind, but you left it.
Only a crazy man would ever come back.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."
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