The Saints are not expected to fire Dennis Allen, but another former Raiders head coach may be in the team’s plans. After spending time as a Saints consultant last year, Jon Gruden is on the radar for a full-time role.
If Gruden does not end up landing a head coaching job during this year’s cycle, NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan reports the former Raiders and Buccaneers HC is interested in joining the Saints as an assistant. The Saints share that interest and recently met with the free agent coach.
Gruden, whose lawsuit against the NFL is ongoing, met with Saints officials and attended a team meeting before the team’s Week 17 game in Tampa, Duncan notes. Gruden, who lives in Tampa, had dinner with Saints brass, including GM Mickey Loomis, that weekend. Gruden, 60, attended Saints minicamp in a consulting role and spent time at training camp as an unpaid observer.
“In Jon, we have a resource here that is football through and through,” Allen said in May. “And he’s had an opportunity to work with Derek Carr. “So what better [way to use that] resource than to just get some thoughts and ideas on how he worked with Derek and what he thought worked well with Derek?”
A Gruden-Saints partnership would be a major development, considering he sued the NFL — over the events that led to problematic emails leaking and the Raiders subsequently forcing him to resign — more than two years ago. That lawsuit has not exactly made Gruden a popular figure with Roger Goodell and league higher-ups, but Brian Flores has remained an active coach despite filing a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and multiple teams. A hearing in Gruden’s case is on tap Wednesday in the Nevada Supreme Court. He does not intend to settle the suit.
Should the Saints bring Gruden aboard, Duncan adds it would unlikely be as a replacement for offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. The Saints’ play-caller and NFL’s longest-tenured OC (at 15 years) is not a lock to return, but Gruden would be expected to join the staff in a senior assistant-type role. Allen returned to New Orleans in that fashion in 2015, though the ex-Raiders HC replaced DC Rob Ryan in 2016.
A rumor last month connected Gruden to what would be a stunning return to the Raiders, with such a reunion representing a potential path for his lawsuit to go away. The Raiders have not been connected to their two-time HC since and have begun sending out interview requests. Unsurprisingly, Gruden has not received any known requests from teams. It still appears another HC opportunity will be unlikely for the former Super Bowl-winning leader. Given Gruden’s age, his teams’ performance since the Bucs’ Super Bowl XXXVII victory and the nature of his latest Raiders departure, an assistant-level role represents a much more logical gateway back to the NFL.
Derek Carr made strides in Gruden’s offense, and the Saints had initially spoken to their quarterback’s four-year Oakland-Las Vegas HC about concepts that work best for the passer. Carr finished in the top 11 in QBR from 2019-20. Carr finished 14th under Josh McDaniels, who deemed him a poor fit (before being shown the door months later), and placed 17th in the metric during an injury-plagued Saints debut. Gruden has not worked as an assistant since his time as the Eagles’ OC in the mid-1990s.