Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Gruden and the Rams' plans for a coach
By Mike Sando
A few thoughts on the San Diego Union-Tribune report connecting ESPN's Jon Gruden to the St. Louis Rams:
- ESPN issued a statement saying Gruden remains committed to "Monday Night Football" for many years to come. Of course, people sometimes change their minds, particularly when vast sums of cash are involved. Stan Kroenke, the Rams' owner, has vast sums of cash to offer. He also has a young franchise quarterback and a power running back suited for the offense Gruden has run in the past.
- Landing Gruden would be a great get for the Rams. Critics will correctly note that Gruden won in Tampa Bay largely with Tony Dungy's players. The bottom line, though, is that he won. Gruden also won in Oakland, something no one had done since Art Shell's run as coach there. Gruden's track record would give the Rams welcome profile in St. Louis and beyond. His offense bears similarities to the one Sam Bradford and the Rams ran in 2010, so that would help in the short term.
- Gruden and Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president of football operations/chief operating officer, worked together in Tampa Bay from 2005-08. That gives Gruden a direct connection to the Rams' current power structure. Demoff's father, longtime agent Marvin Demoff, represents another potential coaching candidate, Jeff Fisher. There's another name to keep in mind if the Rams change coaches.
- There is no opening in St. Louis just yet. Steve Spagnuolo's run as head coach could be ending, but no decision has been announced. Kroenke has been called "Silent Stan" because he doesn't volunteer information freely. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that those informing reporters on these matters are connecting dots more than they are relaying hard facts.
- The Union-Tribune report suggests Chargers general manager A.J. Smith would land in the same capacity with the Rams, and that Smith would be the key to bringing Gruden to St. Louis. This paints Smith in a flattering light. It suggests the Chargers might want to think twice before letting such a power broker slip away. I am not sure what would make Smith the key to landing Gruden. Kevin Acee notes that Gruden and former Raiders/Bucs executive Bruce Allen are close friends.
- Smith has been a polarizing figure, especially with players. Does his personality lend itself to connecting with a rightfully skeptical fan base in St. Louis? It wouldn't really matter if Gruden were head coach. Gruden would be the face of the franchise in that case. His personality would set the tone for the organization. Smith would remain in the background. His track record in personnel is mixed. The Chargers have enjoyed a run of relative success in recent seasons, but they'll be watching their former quarterback, Drew Brees, in the upcoming playoffs.
- Acee's story mentioned Spagnuolo as a possible candidate to become defensive coordinator in Philadelphia if the Rams make a change. That makes sense on multiple levels. Spagnuolo has coached under Andy Reid previously and would, at least in theory, be a candidate to replace him at some point down the line.
That's it for now. I just finished discussing this and other NFC West matters with Bernie Miklasz on our weekly conversation via 101ESPN St. Louis. I'll post that audio in a bit.