Now we know what it will take to pry Jon Gruden from the cozy confines of ESPN's "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth.
Oh, no biggie, just a hundred mil.
Yeah, that's the rumored salary — $100 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, or perhaps even eclipsing that shocking mark, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport — the Oakland Raiders are ready to pay Gruden for his services.
One hundred million dollars for a coach who last ran a team in 2008, last made the playoffs in 2007 and who last won a playoff game in 2002, when he led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory. The price of poker, it seems, has gone up since Gruden first entered the booth in 2009.
And yet, like real estate, coaches and houses are worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay, and Raiders owner Mark Davis is going all in here. Jack Del Rio, the man Gruden would replace, was reportedly among the lowest-paid coaches (and perhaps dead last among those with prior HC experience) in the league. Gruden's deal would far surpass anything the league has ever seen.
Risky? Yeah, you might say that. Imagine what Bill Belichick might command on the open market. That's what range Gruden is touching with this new deal as he's reportedly set to be named Raiders head coach early next week.
Gruden would be a little younger than Belichick is now at the end of those 10 years, and God willing if he comes anywhere close to the level of success that the New England Patriots have had under Belichick — even in the coach's worst 10-year period — the deal will proabably be deemed a success.
But what does Gruden have to do to justify that kind of commitment? Win one Super Bowl? Two? More? Coaches salaries might soon skyrocket for the cream of the crop, though, until he does. Because as good as the Raiders were in 2016, they stepped back far enough in 2017 to suggest that this is not just a hot pot of instant-brew coffee here.
We'll allow that Gruden's job the past nine years, one that apparently will end following Saturday's wild-card game at Arrowhead Stadium, might have given him the proper worldview he needed. By meeting with and dissecting the league's best coaches, such as Belichick and Andy Reid (his mentor and soon-to-be division rival), Gruden could pick and choose the kinds of elements that the elite use to shape their teams. On the flip side, seeing how poorly run clubs operate also provides a powerful lesson in what not to do in his return as coach.
We're not debating the unique value and perspective that might have given Gruden. But now we must explore the reality of the task in front of him as he quickly tries to reacclimate to the contemporary game. That's no easy task, and his staff hires — so far we've heard Rams QB coach Greg Olson (as offensive coordinator), Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and Cowboys special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia in those same roles in Oakland — will be crucial. It appears Gruden is off to a solid start there, even if Olson has just as many strong supporters in the league as he does doubters.
Can Gruden help coax the best out of Derek Carr? That's really the bottom line. It look a fractured fibula last year and a fractured back, for crying out loud, to knock Carr from that perch he reached in 2016. The answer would have been a layup yes a year ago. So it's not far-fetched at all.
But the stakes have been raised several levels. Davis will have a minimum of nearly $200 million (and possibly far more) invested in Carr and Gruden, if you consider what already has been paid out to the quarterback and what will be paid out this season and next. It would be nearly unfathomable, even with an out in Carr's contract following the 2018 season, to see Davis pull the plug after just one season of QB and coach together.
If there's a more fascinating coaching situation next year, please let us know. Maybe if Belichick steps down we can readdress that debate. But for now, all eyes will be on Oakland — and eventually Las Vegas — and how this crazy experiment works out. And that's exactly how Davis wants it as he tries to maintain his Raiders as an international brand and starts introducing his franchise to Sin City, made up mostly of intinerants and tourists and with little outside The Strip to truly call their own.
But Gruden must win. He must be a better coach than he was in his 11 years — four with Oakland, seven with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — in his first go-round. His current record (95-81, but 45-51 over his final six seasons) and overall body of work (one Super Bowl title, five playoff appearances, a 5-4 postseason record, six winning seasons, five division titles) is on par, historically, with men such as Tom Flores, John Harbaugh, Brian Billick and Mike Ditka.
All good coaches to be sure. But hardly Lombardi, Walsh or Belichick as comps. It's likely that Belichick hasn't made a ton more than $100 million in his 18 years coaching the Patriots. Even allowing for inflation and all that, it's clear that Gruden's expectations will be nearly impossible to match, even as excited as Davis and his team's fan base likely are right now.