By this point, it seems pretty clear when I look at the Dallas Cowboys that Jason Garrett is keeping his job, and in fact is already hard at work. He spent most of his time at the Senior Bowl interviewing coaching prospects, not looking at the players much, if at all. He is undoubtedly getting the working relationship up to speed with the new members of his staff that have been hired already, a process (you know that word had to show up) that is likely made easier by the fact he has worked at least briefly with many of them at some point in his career.
And yet, the stories continue to spread around the internet that Jerry Jones in engaged in a somewhat nefarious and conspiratorial plot to build a staff tailored to Jon Gruden, former NFL head coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football analyst, so he can unceremoniously dump Jason Garrett and bring Gruden in.
There are always a lot of rumors swirling around about Jones and the Cowboys, many of which turn out to have little if any relation to reality as most of us know it (Remember when Sean Payton was the must-have coach for Jones?). Normally, we BTB guys do try to ignore the more provocative ones that seem intended only to generate controversy and draw an audience ("Try" is the operative word there.) But this Gruden thing has become like the doll from the horror flick that lent Gruden his "Chucky" nickname: It just will not die. To double check, I Googled "Jon Gruden Jerry Jones" and was a bit surprised at how many different web sites have something up about this. As so often happens on the interwebs, there are just a few articles that started it all, but there are tons of sites that refer back to those original pieces. In most of them, you find the interpretation that the connection so many new Dallas coaches have back to Gruden has to mean this staff is being put together for him.
Earlier today I said no one should be surprised if Jerry Jones winds up hiring Jon Gruden as the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys. As I explained before, Jones has hired two former coaches under Gruden from his days as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and is close to hiring a third in special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
I know I'm not the only one seeing this happen, fellow Rant sports writer Jeric Griffin also wrote about the possibility of adding Gruden here, So it seems very viable that Jones could be laying the ground work to hiring Gruden.
And new stuff seems to roll out about this all the time. A perfect illustration popped up while I was writing this.
Peter King: "I wouldn't be shocked if Jon Gruden was the next coach of the Cowboys. I do think Jerry has had thoughts of changing coaches."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 30, 2013
King is quoted further by Machota as saying that Gruden fits the "showbizy" atmosphere in Dallas, and that people who know Gruden say he is going to be back in the NFL soon.
Well, there seems to be one issue with that. I had gotten the impression that old Chucky did not have the best reputation in the NFL, and when I did what checking I could, that was the response I got. The phrase "legend in his own mind" was used. He is largely perceived to have been a poison in Tampa Bay before he left, and is known to get along with just about no one. This is based specifically on the attitudes I am told circulate at Valley Ranch, as well as other franchises. And these are the attitudes after the new hires have arrived in Dallas. None of them seem to be particularly eager to see Gruden show up as their boss again. They came to work for the Cowboys, and to some extent (most notably Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli) with one another.
Now, I suppose it is possible that Jerry Jones is either entirely unaware of this perception among his employees, or chooses to ignore it. But I don't find that totally plausible. I just don't see him operating in the unilateral fashion that so many believe. I do see evidence that he listens to his head coach and his son, Stephen, and I would imagine there are others whose opinions carry weight with him. And he has repeatedly stated that Jason Garrett is going to be the head coach for at least one more season, with nothing to indicate otherwise so far outside of many people's imaginations.
So why does this Gruden-to-Dallas-real-soon thing keep on going?
I actually may have been given the answer. That is a man named Bob Lamonte. He is Gruden's agent, and he has hired a marketing firm that works tirelessly to connect Gruden with possible job openings. That appears to include making it seem like people are interested in him, when no such interest has been shown. There is no evidence of anyone actually interviewing him since he left Tampa Bay. This is almost certainly tied to the fact that very similar issues were seen with the Buccaneers and at his previous stop, the Oakland Raiders.
What seems to be going on is someone, namely the people trying to get Gruden a gig, are looking at the coaches being hired for Garrett's staff, and connecting dots that don't really exist. Among the recent stories about this, one by Todd Archer seemed to reach the same conclusion I have that this is all about perceptions, which may not have much to do with reality.
Garrett had to deal with the shadow of Payton for the second half of last season when it looked like Payton could have opted out of New Orleans.
Now Garrett might have a staff with four former Gruden assistants on board in Callahan, Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Rich Bisaccia, who could be the special teams coach, and he will have to deal with the shadow of Gruden this season.
It doesn't matter that Gruden might not have the best of relationships with some of his former assistants or that people want to overlook how bad things got under Gruden after Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl.
It's the perception that Garrett is teetering on the edge that will become an almost story with his firing almost an inevitability.
That is exactly the way I see this. This all being a somewhat managed rumor is a theory that is buttressed by the sources of what is said. The most favorable takes on Gruden replacing Garrett, either from the perspective of likelihood or desirability, come from the fringes, while more serious sources, like CBS sports and more recognized journalists, put out things like this.
Response from reliable team source when I asked if TB glory-days asst. coaches being hired in Dallas meant Gruden on way: "Ridiculous."— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) January 27, 2013
That is exactly what I hear, although I gladly admit that I hear a lot less than Werder. But we do get the same message. This talk about Jones wanting to bring Gruden to the Cowboys, no matter how often it rises to haunt our dreams for the Cowboys like Chucky did in sequel after sequel, is just a rumor. And it is just as scary.