There has been a longstanding tradition that, during the week leading up to a game, the color analyst and play-by-play announcer are allowed access to practice. They hold late-night meetings with members of the coaching staff, which help inform the broadcast and give them a sense of the offense and defense they might not glean from watching film.
They talk to players and learn their backstories, which they pepper in throughout the broadcast.
This seemed like a sensible arrangement because, for the most part, analysts were former players and coaches long beyond their playing days. John Madden, Cris Collinsworth, Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston. But what might happen if those players and coaches started filtering back into the game?
On Wednesday morning, Pro Football Talk reported that Jon Gruden, who will more than likely become the next head coach of the Raiders but is also continuing his analyst duties for ESPN during Saturday’s Chiefs-Titans tilt, “won’t be attending (Titans) practice in advance of Saturday’s game.” This isn't a surprise given that the Titans are the visiting team. The Chiefs, who would be prospective division rivals “have no concerns about Gruden’s presence, and they won’t alter his access to practice or production meetings,” according to the site. Gruden has already called a few Chiefs games this season.
ESPN declined to comment when reached by Sports Illustrated.
Gruden is following in the footsteps of 49ers general manager John Lynch, who stunned the NFL world by leaving the broadcast booth and becoming an NFL executive. Lynch’s access to different organizations was billed as an advantage by some analyzing the hire. Gruden, too, has had the ability to freely pick the brains of many coaches who will soon be competing against him for wins and losses.
Those on the television side downplay the spirit of these meetings and categorize them as largely conversational. However, public relations officials have said in the past that coaches are encouraged to be more open in these production meetings than they are with regular media. For a league that is notoriously private, will Gruden’s re-emergence on the coaching scene cause NFL teams to buckle down in the future? Will that have any effect on the broadcast?
Gruden’s final (?) broadcast will be picked over for multiple reasons. Journalistically, play-by-play man Sean McDonough will have no choice but to ask his partner about the speculation surrounding the move. The question is whether Gruden will pocket something to his advantage down the road—if that’s even possible.
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