May 18, 2009

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden will join ESPN's Monday Night Football this season. He'll replace Tony Kornheiser, who cited a fear of flying in his decision to leave the broadcast booth after three years.

Gruden, who was fired Jan. 16 after seven seasons in Tampa Bay, will join Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski for the 40th season of MNF.REACT: Share your thoughts on the MNF changes

"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 the network. "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."

Although Gruden, who led Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl in 2003, received a contract extension through 2011 last year, the Bucs fired him after the team lost four straight games and missed the playoffs in 2008. However, Gruden has stated before he intends to coach again, which could make his arrangement with ESPN a short one.KING: More on NFL coaching changes in MMQB

Kornhesier, who will continue to appear on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, came on as the final piece in a three-man booth when MNF moved from ABC to ESPN in 2006. After the first season, former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, whom Kornheiser covered while with The Washington Post, was replaced by Jaworski in an effort to correct a lack of chemistry among the broadcast team.

Kornheiser initially joined the team in attempt to recreate the three-man booth magic MNF boasted in the Howard Cosell era. The plan fell flat under comedian Dennis Miller from 2000-01 and never really panned out with Kornhesier, either. His three-year stint sparked controversy, too, most notably during last year's Monday Night telecast of the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game. After ESPN played the Spanish language call of Felix Jones' touchdown, Kornheiser said, "I took high-school Spanish, and that either means 'nobody is going to touch him' or 'could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning.'" Kornheiser later apologized for the comment.

On his departure, Kornheiser had this to say: "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. He is the two things you most want -- smart and funny -- and has the two things I don't -- good hair and a tan."

Gruden, who worked as a guest analyst this year with the NFL Network during the draft and scouting combine, will make his MNF debut the Aug. 13 preseason Super Bowl rematch between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

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