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Volume 25 No. 23
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ESPN Facing Another High-Profile Talent Search With Gruden's Rumored Move

If Jon Gruden were to join the Raiders, he would "become the fourth ESPN analyst in recent weeks to depart Bristol for a head coaching job, following Chip Kelly (UCLA), Aaron Boone (Yankees) and Herm Edwards (Arizona State) out the door," according to Rob Tornoe of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Gruden's new gig would "force ESPN to conduct a high-profile search in the offseason to find a replacement for Gruden in the booth" for "Monday Night Football." It is "too early to speculate" who could replace Gruden, but it is "clear it will be a challenging hire for ESPN, especially considering" President John Skipper's decision to leave the company. Complicating matters is the fact that Gruden is "more than just a voice in the booth." He is also a "large contributor to ESPN's NFL Draft coverage, contributes to the network's extensive Super Bowl coverage and his 'Gruden's QB Camp' series remains popular with fans" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/3).

THE REPLACEMENTS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote the "MNF" analyst job is "easily among the top three talent jobs at ESPN." The net "will reach out" to Peyton Manning and "pray he has a change a heart about broadcasting." However, that is "very unlikely." A source said, "Timing is everything, and any legit candidate other than Peyton Manning is not ready to jump into the booth right now." The source said recently retired Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is "engaging and likable but may not be polished enough to help carry a broadcast. It’s going to be a serious challenge for them." Deitsch noted the decision will now "likely fall to some combination" of Exec VP/Content Connor Schell, Senior VP/Event & Studio Production Stephanie Druley and VP/Production & Remote Events Mark Gross. As far as in-house candidates, Matt Hasselbeck is a name being thrown around as a "potential fit" (SI.com, 1/2). In Cleveland, Joey Morona writes the list of candidates also includes recently fired Colts coach Chuck Pagano and NFLers "who may be considering retirement" such as Dolphins QB Jay Cutler, Browns OT Joe Thomas, Giants QB Eli Manning and Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. However, two of the "most intriguing names being bandied about" are Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/3).

STILL ON GOOD TERMS: In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib cites a source as saying that despite Cutler’s "abrupt departure this summer, he did not leave" Fox on "bad terms." The source said, "The door is not closed." Fox "might, in fact, be even more eager to hire Cutler this year than last, given the tremendous success CBS has had this season" with Tony Romo (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 1/3).