AFC West: Pat Haden

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders currently have a head coach under contract in Dennis Allen. Jon Gruden currently has a gig and seems more than happy sitting in the broadcast booth for a little show called “Monday Night Football” on ESPN.

And yet…

None of it is enough to keep the denizens of Raider Nation from screaming for the return of “Chucky” to the Silver & Black, no matter how far-fetched the idea may seem. Especially with it being revealed Wednesday that Gruden may – or may not – be interested in returning to the sideline.

USC athletic director Pat Haden appeared on Dan Patrick's radio show Wednesday and revealed that in his search for a new coach he reached out to Gruden about talking over the Trojans, before hiring former USC assistant (and one-time Raiders candidate) Steve Sarkisian away from Washington to replace the fired Lane Kiffin (remember him, Raiders fans?) and interim coach Ed Orgeron.

Gruden''s response?

"He wants to coach in the pros," Haden told Patrick. "If he's gonna coach, he wants to be a pro coach."

Ambiguous enough, right? At least, as far as it regards the Raiders, who, again, have a coach in Allen who many believe deserves at least three years to put his imprint on the team.

Still, some Raiders fans were already banging the drum, as they were last season after Gruden appeared at the Coliseum to light the Al Davis torch in a pregame ceremony.

Gruden obviously holds a special place in their hearts after compiling a 38-26 record and two division titles between 1998 and 2001 – his last game with the Raiders was the Tuck Rule Game in New England -- before beating Oakland with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Coincidentally, the last game he coached was a loss to the Raiders, on Dec. 28, 2008, a defeat that knocked the Buccaneers out of the playoff race.

“We had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and JaMarcus Russell took it to me and ended my career,” Gruden told Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game earlier this season. “The greatest day of my life was winning the Super Bowl against the Raiders, and the worst day ever [was losing to them].

“Look at me now.”

Del Rio will have more choices than USC

November, 17, 2013
DENVER -- USC may have already interviewed Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for the school's head-coaching job earlier this month, but competition figures to increase for Del Rio’s services if the Broncos continue their winning ways into the postseason.

Del Rio has been in place as the Broncos' interim head coach since Nov. 3, or two days after he interviewed with USC athletic director Pat Haden. Team officials confirmed Sunday that Del Rio had interviewed Nov. 1, during the Broncos' bye week.

Del Rio
The following day Broncos head coach John Fox suffered dizziness and light-headedness on a Charlotte, N.C., golf course; he had open heart surgery Nov. 4. Fox is still recuperating at his home in Charlotte and Del Rio has been in place as the Broncos' interim coach since.

The Broncos (8-1) won their first game with Del Rio as interim head coach last Sunday in San Diego. And Del Rio’s profile could receive a significant lift over the next three weeks with two games against the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs sandwiched around a trip to New England. Overall, should the Broncos close out the regular season strong and play deep into the postseason, Del Rio will almost certainly garner interest from NFL teams after he has stepped into his current double role with the team as defensive coordinator and interim head coach.

Del Rio’s two-year contract with the Broncos runs through the end of the season and Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway has said Del Rio would finish out the Broncos' season no matter what school or NFL team expressed interest in Del Rio. So a university like USC, which is Del Rio’s alma mater, will have to wait until the Broncos' season is over for Del Rio to come aboard.

That would be the first week of February if the Broncos advance to the Super Bowl.

The Broncos allowed Del Rio to interview with USC because Haden took the uncommon step of contacting Elway to formally request permission to interview Del Rio at a time the Broncos found convenient, something a college program would not be required to do.

Del Rio went 69-73 in nine seasons as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach before being fired 11 games into the 2011 season. He joined the Broncos as defensive coordinator in 2012. In the days following Lane Kiffin’s firing earlier this season Del Rio called any potential interest from USC “rumor and speculation," and said that “I am committed to the job I have right now with the Denver Broncos."

Del Rio was an All-American linebacker at USC and was the co-MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl.

Should the Broncos advance to the Super Bowl, Del Rio could interview for NFL head-coaching jobs in a week-long window following the conference championship games.