|If Gruden leaves the booth for St. Louis would he want to move on from Bradford, the 2010 1st overall pick? (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
It sounds like Jon Gruden could be back to coaching in 2012. After three years in ESPN's Monday Night Football booth, and months after signing a five-year extension to stay there, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee reported Monday night that signs point to Gruden returning to the NFL sidelines, possibly landing with the Rams.
CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman had two sources confirm as much with the caveat that "…while Gruden is indeed leaning towards returning, it's not certain. … I'm told Gruden wants to see what positions he could possibly get before making a 100 percent final decision and that he hasn't officially made one yet because of the uncertainty."
(ESPN released a statment Tuesday that makes it sound like Gruden's staying in the booth: “Jon signed a multi-year extension with ESPN this fall. He remains committed to being a part of Monday Night Football for many years.”)
Let's assume for the moment that Gruden does end up in St. Louis. That means he would have quarterback Sam Bradford, the first-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft who had a forgettable 2011 season (mostly due to injuries -- to himself and just about every other starter on the roster), to build a team around.
But here's the thing: St. Louis heads into the final week of the regular season with two wins. If they lose to San Francisco on Sunday and the Colts, the league's only other two-win outfit, beat the Jaguars, the Rams would be the sole owners of the first-overall pick in April's draft.
That means Andrew Luck is there for the taking. Except that St. Louis already has Bradford, the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year, right? Not so fast. Conventional wisdom goes something like this: St. Louis would ransom that pick to a QB-needy team like the Browns or Redskins or Dolphins, and use the cornucopia of draft picks coming their way to give Bradford some help.
One thing: late in the Rams-Seahawks Monday Night Football telecast earlier this month, long after Seattle had taken a comfortable lead and with not much else to talk about, Gruden and boothmate Ron Jaworski turned the conversation to Bradford, the Rams, and the possibility of the organization taking another quarterback in the 2011 draft. Gruden suggested that Bradford had played so poorly this season that if he we making the decisions in St. Louis, he might take a long look at Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Presumably, that line of thinking holds for Luck, too.
It sounded ludicrous at the time -- and Jaws' reaction confirmed as much -- but if Gruden gets the Rams gig it could also become a reality this spring. St. Louis would be able to move Bradford for as much if not more than they would've gotten for Luck (or maybe they choose to trade down a few spots to grab RG3) and could still restock the roster, just with a "Gruden guy."
Remember: Gruden ain't afraid to fall in love. He coached the 2005 Senior Bowl, had a running back named Cadillac Williams on his roster and was so impressed that he ended up taking Williams with the fifth-overall pick. Williams rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie but knee injuries haven't allowed him to crack 1,000 yards since. (It's another reason why teams shouldn't over-pay and/or overdraft running backs.) And now the two could be reunited in St. Louis.
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