Gruden joins 'Monday Night Football'
Jon Gruden intends to coach again, but until that day, the man known throughout the NFL as "Chucky" will get to sharpen his teeth in ESPN's "Monday Night Football" booth.
Tirico & Van Pelt
Former NFL coach Jon Gruden talks about working on "Monday Night Football" in 2009.
Gruden will join play-by-play man Mike Tirico and analyst Ron Jaworski in September, replacing Tony Kornheiser.
"This is a tremendous opportunity and I am very excited to be associated with ESPN and Monday Night Football," Gruden said in a statement released by ESPN. "I grew up a fan of Monday Night Football, and whether I've coached on Monday night or watched, I've hardly missed a game all these years.
"To join Mike and Jaws in the booth and to work alongside this top-notch team is going to be a real thrill."
The 40th season of "Monday Night Football" kicks off Sept. 14 with a doubleheader; the New England Patriots play host to the Buffalo Bills at 7 p.m. ET and the San Diego Chargers visit the Oakland Raiders at 10:15 ET.
Gruden won the 2003 title with the Bucs, and there's no telling how long he'll stay away from the field. Neither he nor Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president of production, would directly answer how long Gruden's contract lasts, or whether he was free to take an NFL post if one is offered.
"Maybe I can hang in and keep this job for a while," Gruden said, later adding, "I dearly miss coaching."
Kornheiser decided to step down after three years of MNF, citing his fear of flying.
"I am totally grateful for the MNF opportunity that I truly enjoyed the last three seasons," he said. "I feel we got better each year. My fear of planes is legendary and sadly true. When I looked at the upcoming schedule it was the perfect storm that would've frequently moved me from the bus to the air. I kept looking at the schedule the past month and wanted to find a way to quietly extricate myself."
"If I could handpick a replacement of a football guy, I would cast a net and drag in Jon Gruden," Kornheiser added. "He is the two things you most want -- smart and funny -- and has the two things I don't -- good hair and a tan. I love PTI and am looking forward to continuing to yammer and yodel with Wilbon until the end of time."
Williamson emphasized it was Kornheiser's choice to leave, and said MNF did not consider trying to replace him with a nonfootball type.
"We were talking to Jon, he was out there," Williamson said. "When Tony made his decision, Jon was the guy."
Gruden was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 16 and replaced by defensive coordinator Raheem Morris just weeks after a season-ending loss to the Raiders cost the Bucs a possible playoff spot.
At 60-57 in seven seasons, Gruden was the winningest coach in Bucs history and led Tampa Bay to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. He also has coached the Raiders.
Gruden's first MNF appearance will come in an Aug. 13 preseason game that doubles as a Super Bowl rematch between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Following four preseason games, Gruden, Tirico and Jaworski will call Bills-Patriots on Sept. 14.
"I can't express how much I enjoyed working with Tony the past three years," Tirico said. "It was a professional experience that I enjoyed and a lasting friendship that I will treasure. I think all of us on the show are better for the time we spent working with Tony.
"Looking ahead to this season, I am excited to welcome Jon to 'Monday Night Football.' Every time you are in his company, you come away so impressed by his energy and passion for the game. He will be a perfect fit with our group."
Gruden began his NFL coaching career in 1990 when Mike Holmgren, then offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, hired him as an assistant in charge of quality control. Gruden quickly ascended through the ranks by learning the famed West Coast offense pioneered by longtime 49ers coach Bill Walsh.
When Holmgren left the 49ers to become head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1992, he named Gruden the Packers' wide receivers coach. After three seasons in Green Bay, Gruden moved on to become the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator under head coach Ray Rhodes. In 1998, Gruden was chosen by Oakland owner and general manager Al Davis to be the Raiders' new head coach at the age of 34.
A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Gruden grew up in a football family. His father, Jim, served as an assistant at Notre Dame in the late 1970s and later with the Buccaneers. Gruden graduated from the University of Dayton, where he was a backup quarterback. After graduation, he started his career as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1986. He also served as the quarterbacks coach at Southeast Missouri State (1987-88), and the wide receivers coach at both Pacific (1989) and Pittsburgh (1991) in the college ranks.
Gruden worked as a guest analyst earlier this year with the NFL Network during the NFL draft and scouting combine.
Asked his favorite memory of MNF, Gruden immediately hummed the opening notes to the show's theme song. He recalled being young, trying to persuade his mom and dad to let him stay awake to watch the games end.
"I'm excited to tell my three boys they can stay up all night to watch 'Monday Night Football,'" Gruden said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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