Tennessee and Jon Gruden have been a thing for nearly a decade now. The linkage isn’t hard to follow. Gruden was a graduate assistant at Tennessee in the mid-80s. His wife, Cindy, was a Tennessee cheerleader. His son currently attends the university. So yeah, if the Super Bowl winning head coach wanted back into the coaching ranks by way of a college job, Tennessee would be the place to do it.
Now, here we sit — getting the stern impression that we’re about to go through a coaching search once again. Right on cue, the Grumors are heating up. Let’s take a step back and remember where we started. We’ll update this post with the latest (and most ridiculous) Grumors we find.
It’s Grumor season once again, baby.
Way back in 2008, when Tennessee was trying to figure out where to go after Phillip Fulmer, Gruden’s name surfaced. It just so happened to be his last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Gruden didn’t know that yet.
- Gruden shrugged off reports that he was considering the Tennessee gig in 2008, saying he was happy in Tampa. This was the first known mention of a link to Gruden and Tennessee.
- December 1st, 2008: Tennessee hires Lane Kiffin
- Gruden was fired by the Buccaneers a month and a half later.
- Gruden is fired by the Buccaneers in January.
- Gruden is hired by ESPN in May.
- January 13th, 2010: Lane Kiffin bolts for the USC job
- Tennessee is reportedly turned down by Kyle Wittingham, Troy Calhoun and Will Muschamp.
- Mike Hamilton settles for Derek Dooley.
Derek Dooley is crumbling. He’s clearly on the way out. Fire up the Grumor Mill again.
- October 25th, 2012: Message board re-ignites the Grumors. “Deal is done.”
REMINDER: Last time Vols had an opening, Jon Gruden was contacted. He was very interested. Money wasn't close.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) October 25, 2012
- November 18th, 2012: Dooley is fired.
- November 20th, 2012: Gruden linked to the Arkansas gig.
- November 28th, 2012: Gruden shoots down the idea that he had been offered the Tennessee job, along with a piece of ownership in the Cleveland Browns.
- November 29th, 2012: Reports indicate that Gruden had an offer on the table from Tennessee.
- November 30th, 2012: Gruden’s agent ends the speculation about a potential landing spot at Tennessee, calling the rumors “just a fantasy world.”
- Tennessee reportedly gets turned down by Charlie Strong, Larry Fedora and Mike Gundy.
- December 7th, 2012: Tennessee hires Butch Jones.
Gruden calls Tennessee a “dream job” on the Paul Finebaum show.
Tennessee is a dream job for a lot of people, me included. Timing wasn't right. I'll say this about the Volunteers, they got the right guy. I think Butch Jones is going to put the Volunteers back on the map. It might happen this year." - Gruden in 2015
- August 18th, 2016: Tennessee AD Dave Hart announces his retirement.
- February 28th, 2017: Tennessee hires John Currie as the next AD.
- July 27th, 2017: Gruden says he’s preparing to coach once again, but says college football isn’t a fit for him, citing too many rules.
“Too many rules, man. I mean I like to work. I don’t like to be working 15 hours a week with players. The recruiting, Facebook, texting, e-mails – all that stuff. Yeah, I’d probably have you in real deep, deep trouble if I was your college coach.”
- September 2017: Tennessee loses to Florida on the final play, nearly gets upset by UMass, loses to Georgia 41-0. Butch Jones sits squarely on the hot seat.
- October 5th, 2017: Finebaum says Gruden is the top target, if Butch Jones is fired.
“But I talked to someone, let me put it you that way, someone that I have a lot of trust in and that is connected deeply in that program and he told me the same thing. He said, ‘If we lose this (Georgia) game, and something happens to Butch Jones, our first choice will be Jon Gruden.’”
- October 14th, 2017: Gruden appears in Knoxville for the weekend. He’s out in the public eye, not even trying to hide it. He even appears in the stands during Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina. He likely was likely in town simply because he was calling the Titans-Colts Monday Night Football game in Nashville two days later.
- October 16th, 2017: Finebaum says Gruden might not be a good fit.
“I was with a couple of former players of Gruden [Sunday] and people that have worked with him,” Finebaum said on the radio appearance. “Nobody believes Jon Gruden has any interest in recruiting. … Jon Gruden may not be what everybody thinks he is.”
- October 17th, 2017: A reddit user spills rumored details from Gruden’s visit to Knoxville on the weekend of the 14th.
- October 19th, 2017: Albert Haynesworth throws Vol Twitter into a tizzy. Does Gruden have anything to do with it? Some have speculated that the mention of Haslam’s name clearly means this vague tweet is linked to Jon Gruden.
Great news is on the horizon for us VFLs!!! It is just a matter of when! Thank you Mr. Haslam for trying to make Tennessee great again! #VFL— Albert Haynesworth (@haynesworthiii) October 19, 2017
- October 19th, 2017: Odds on BetOnline change following the Haynesworth tweet.
I can confirm. Gruden went from off the board, to 20-1, dropped to 18-1 two weeks ago....... now at 12-1 on bet online https://t.co/CW7Sb1YOau— Jon Reed (@Jon__Reed) October 19, 2017
- October 28th, 2017: Odds drop all the way from 20-1, down to +250. Gruden is now the favorite on BetOnline to coach the Vols in 2018.
- October 28th, 2017: Tennessee loses for the 2nd time since 1985 to Kentucky.
- October 29th, 2017: The Read Optional reports that Tennessee has offered Jon Gruden.
Sources have confirmed to The Read Optional reports from elsewhere that Tennessee has offered over $10 million a year to Jon Gruden. The rest of the name’s on the school’s list currently matches Florida’s — Tennessee’s list also includes Gary Patterson (TCU), Bobby Petrino (Louisville) and Jeff Brohm (Purdue).
- October 30th, 2017: Albert Haynesworth says Gruden is the front runner. Butch Jones is still employed.
- November 10th, 2017: Jon Gruden hints at a return to coaching.
These comments from Jon Gruden may get Tennessee fans excited. Sure sounds to me like he’s hungry to get back into the game, says he’s involved on all levels of the game everyday... #GRUMORS pic.twitter.com/ciCR1PtNd4— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) November 10, 2017
- November 12th, 2017: Butch Jones is fired by Tennessee.
- November 13th, 2017: John Brice reports that the Gruden-Tennessee linkage is very real.
The overtures to Jon Gruden, a Super Bowl champion coach, the NFL’s most recognizable broadcast voice and one-time UT assistant coach in the 1980s, are very real and much further along than at any point in any of Tennessee’s previous courtships to the mega-star football mind.
Six different sources, ranging from current coaches to former all-time great Vols to college administrators, in the past 72-96 hours tell me that Gruden is far more seriously considering this Tennessee offer than ever before; so much so that Gruden is making some preliminary calls to coaches and other college athletics folks about potentially joining him in Knoxville.
- November 14th, 2017: Jon Gruden was reportedly in Knoxville during the weekend that Butch Jones was fired.
Confirmed through multiple sources that Jon Gruden was in Knoxville last weekend after Butch Jones was fired. If he makes it in for LSU weekend, that would be four trips in five weeks time https://t.co/zGYIjtdpLD— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) November 14, 2017
- November 14th, 2017: Football Scoop says Gruden has no interest in the Tennessee job. This contradicts most of the local media reports that Gruden is somewhat in play.
Jon Gruden has no interest in being the next head coach at Tennessee. This is not happening. No one is being contacted about potentially joining his staff. Move on Vol fans…
- November 15th, 2017: Gruden is asked about Tennessee. He says “never say never.”
- November 16th, 2017: Jon Gruden appears on Seattle radio. After telling the hosts not to bring up the possibility of returning to coaching, Gruden finds a way to bring up Knoxville and Rocky Top anyways.
- November 16, 2017: Tennessee reportedly meets with Gruden.
Have worked w/ @GrantRamey & we have confirmed John Currie/#Vols powerbrokers have been in Tampa since last night following their circuitous flight route to make ‘The Pitch’ to Gruden. Ramey will have full story.— John Brice (@JohnDBrice1) November 16, 2017
- November 16th, 2017: Jimmy Hyams reports that the reported meeting hasn’t happened.
Tennessee is not interviewing or making a pitch to Jon Gruden today in Tampa, according to informed source. One other source also confirmed that UT is not interviewing Gruden today or making a pitch— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 16, 2017
- November 16th, 2017: Rumors spread that Gruden has told the Vols no.
Two very hard "not happening" tonight on Jon Gruden to Vols, from as rock solid sources as you can get.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) November 17, 2017
Time to pack in another season of #Grumors
- November 18th, 2017: Gruden is reportedly spotted at Calhoun’s with Peyton Manning. (This is later debunked by Calhoun’s COO)
Just got further clarification. His Grudeness was indeed at Calhoun's tonight. Was also reportedly at Copper Cellar last week during the UT/Mizzou game. None of this means he is taking/has took the job. Just means he's been around a lot lately.— Russell Smith (@Russell___Smith) November 18, 2017
- November 26th, 2017: After a dead silent week, Jason La Canfora reports that Gruden is talking to Tennessee.
- December 5th, 2017: After a tumoltuous search, Tennessee hires Jeremy Pruitt. It appears that Gruden used the Tennessee job to get his name back in the spotlight.
- January 5th, 2018: The Raiders announce a press conference to announce Jon Gruden as their next head coach. Adam Schefter reports it’s a 10 year, 100 million dollar deal. Wow.
Raiders are giving new head coach Jon Gruden a 10-year contract, the longest coaching deal in NFL history, sources tell ESPN. The deal is likely to be worth about $100 million.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 5, 2018
Well, that should officially close the book on Jon Gruden to Tennessee. This post will live on forever though, serving as a reminder to us all of just how much Jon Gruden played the University of Tennessee.