Bucs coach Dirk Koetter may still have a chance to save his job for 2018, but there is mounting evidence that Jon Gruden is be preparing for a return to the sidelines and his preferred choice could be his old job in Tampa Bay.
The phrase that's being used around One Buc Place is "there's still a lot of football to be played,'' and "let's see what happens," an indicator that the Glazer family which owns the Bucs want all the information on the 2017 season before they make a decision about Koetter's future. He has three years remaining on his contract, but at 4-10 and games today at Carolina and Dec. 31 against the Saints, it's nearly imperative that the Bucs win or play incredibly well in both.
Meanwhile, there are signs that Gruden, the Super Bowl-winning coach of the Bucs from 2002-08, may finally be contemplating leaving his job as the star of Monday Night Football on ESPN.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Gruden has been checking with former assistants to determine who may be available if he were to return to coaching next year. Gruden has made no secret how special the Bucs organization is to him. He was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor Monday night.
"As it's being explained to me, this year may actually be different," Rapoport said. "Gruden right now is going through the process of reaching out to for former assistants and friends in the coaching industry just to see if they would be available, if they would potentially come with him if he were be able to get a head coaching job. And of course the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do have Dirk Koetter on the hot seat — that would be his preferred destination. The Bucs have often swung big. They'd have to give up a lot of money to outbid ESPN and pay Gruden what he would want — something that would be worth it to come back to coaching. As a source close to him told me, this year may actually different."
Clearly, Gruden doesn't want to look as if he is campaigning for a job that is not currently available. The Glazers got burned going down that road before when they reach an agreement with Bill Parcells to coach the Bucs two weeks before Tony Dungy coached his final playoff game at Philadelphia.
Dungy was fired but Parcells got pushback from the coaching community and wound up backing out of the deal, which began that search that eventually resulted in the Glazers swinging a trade with the Raiders for Gruden.
In two weeks, depending on the outcome of games against the Panthers and Saints, we will know if there is anything to all these Grumors.