Signals point to Gruden’s comeback as coach of Buccaneers, part of a family affair
Ever since Jon Gruden became Monday Night Football commentator nine years ago, rumors periodically flourished that he would leave the booth to return to coaching. The rumors quickly died, but year after losing year in Tampa, they returned. The Buccaneers are 3-6, would-be star QB Jameis Winston is injured, and fans in a half-empty stadium are chanting, “Gruuuu-den.” They have not forgotten the only Buccaneers coach who ever won a Super Bowl. Buccaneer insider Ira Kaufman believes “this is different” from the bogus rumors of the past. Appearing on Pro Football Talk (CBSSports), Kaufman told Mike Florio that Gruden “loves Jameis Winston. . . He thinks he can work with him. . . . Here’s another thing: His oldest son, Deuce, is the assistant strength coach with the Redskins, who are coached by Gruden’s brother. If this job is open, and Gruden takes it, he will grab his son – his brother (Jay) won’t mind — and work every day at One Buc Place with his oldest son. And that’s very enticing for Jon Gruden.” Kaufman added that Gruden, who appeared frequently at training camp and was filmed in Hard Knocks commenting on the team’s players, has “mended fences with the Glazers” who fired him in 2008. But most of all, family considerations make this an ideal time for Gruden to return to coaching. “His youngest son is gonna be out of the house within a year. Cindy (Gruden’s wife) will throw him out at that point. ‘Get outta here, go back into coaching.’ . . . For the first time I’m starting to believe that Gruden’s coming back.”
Between the Lines: Gruden has stated publicly that he plans to return to coaching someday, and the timing may be about right in a very few months.
Giants coach is not quite McDone although players and fans are quitting
Even before the New York Giants lost by double digits to moribund San Francisco, Manhattan tabloids were screaming for the head of the head coach, Ben McAdoo. Now, with the Big Blue record at 1-8 and being undisputed worst team in the conference, “McDone” and “McDoom” are what most of the fandom are thinking. But the Giants’ ownership is thinking otherwise. This is an organization that focuses, quite anachronistically, on the long view. Unless he gets indicted or connected to a prostitution ring, their coach gets a full season once it has begun. So Giants president John Mara issued this definitive statement: “Ben McAdoo is our head coach and has our support. We are in the midst of an extremely disappointing season. Our performance this year, particularly the past two weeks, is inexcusable and frustrating. While we appreciate that our fans are unhappy with what has occurred, nobody is more upset than we are. Our plan is to do what we have always done . . . evaluate the 2017 season in its entirety and make a determination on how we move forward.”
Dear Mr. Mara: You may be underestimating how upset the Giants’ fans are. While you’re luxuriating in your plexiglass box at the brow of the stadium, they’re suffering in gusts of cold wind and stinky football.
John Fox challenges a call, and it leads to his team losing the ball
In a game his Chicago Bears lost 23-16 to Green Bay, Chicago Bears coach John Fox tossed a challenge flag when officials ruled Benny Cunningham out of bounds at the 2-yard line. Fox contended that his receiver made it to the pylon for a touchdown. But when studio analysts reviewed the play, they determined that Cunningham fumbled the ball and that it now belonged to Green Bay. Thus, Fox’s challenge backfired and almost certainly cost his team at least 3 points and perhaps 7 – the difference in the final score. After the game, Fox admitted, “I probably would not challenge that if I were given the opportunity again.”
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Dear Coach: You may not get many more opportunities. Chicago media reported that the Bears’ ownership is very unhappy with the loss to the Packers and their backup quarterback, the previously unsuccessful Brett Hundley.
Vikings coach creates quarterback controversy by snubbing Keenum
After his Minnesota Vikings beat Washington 38-30, coach Mike Zimmer withheld support for Case Keenum, who became the team’s No. 1 QB with the latest season-ending injury to Sam Bradford. Keenum threw 4 touchdowns against Washington’s highly regarded defense. Even so, Zimmer would not affirm him as the starter the following Sunday against the LA Rams. “I’ve got a plan,” he said, “and we’ll just see how it goes.” His evasiveness led to the dread quarterback controversy, with the reactivation of Teddy Bridgewater, who was No. 1 before knee reconstruction knocked him out of the entire 2016 season. Chris Simms of PFT said: “I don’t know why this is a discussion. We’re talking about the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings, the 9th-ranked offense in football under Case Keenum. He’s the fourth-best quarterback in football on third down, tied with Tom Brady. He’s having a better year than Teddy Bridgewater has ever had in his career. The fact that Mike Zimmer is letting this linger is making me want to root against the Vikings. Are you trying to divide your locker room? Why are you doing this?” Tony Dungy, former Super Bowl-winning coach, said on PFT, “I just don’t know that you want to upset the applecart when the cart is running pretty smoothly. If I were Coach Zimmer, I would play Keenum as long as they continue to win.”
Dear Coach Zimmer: You think you’re creating confusion for your opponent. You’re hoping the Rams spend 20 percent of their limited practice time preparing for Bridgewater rollouts. Truth is you’re only creating doubt on your team that you know what the hell you’re doing.
Trump intervenes in behalf of UCLA basketball players
For all the complaints of Donald Trump not accomplishing much as President, he took a few minutes during his Asian expedition to talk China into releasing three UCLA basketball players who were in China to play a basketball game but were arrested for shoplifting in Hangzhou. LiAngelo Ball (brother of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball), Cody Riley and Jaylen Hill were freed from jail, and they returned home to LA with the team. “When I heard about it two days ago,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, “I had a great conversation with President Xi. They were fortunate. You’re talking very long prison sentences with the Chinese.”
Between the Lines: The State Department is concerned that misbehaving American youths can damage international relations during an especially sensitive time. UCLA is being pressured to punish any players who appear guilty of committing crimes abroad.