BY IRA KAUFMAN
Dousing speculation he plans to return to the NFL sidelines, former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden told the Tampa Tribune he is remaining with ESPN as an analyst for its "Monday Night Football'' broadcasts.
"I love my job and I'll be back at ESPN with the guys,'' Gruden said. "I'm not going anywhere.''
Gruden, 48, has spent the past three NFL seasons in the ESPN booth with fellow analyst Ron Jaworski and play-by-play man Mike Tirico, receiving two Sports Emmy nominations. In October, Gruden signed a 5-year extension with ESPN.
Despite the extension, Gruden's name has been linked to several NFL clubs that could be looking for a head coach next season.
A recent published report out of San Diego suggested Gruden and current Chargers general manager A.J. Smith would work together in St. Louis in 2012.
"I enjoy being with our ESPN team,'' Gruden said. "I'm staying put.''
A year ago, Gruden's name was floated as a possible head coaching candidate at the University of Miami.
Gruden said his career as a broadcaster has allowed him to spend more time with his family, while remaining close to the pro game. He usually flies into the game site on Saturday and returns home to Tampa on Tuesday morning, when he begins his preparations for the next Monday night matchup.
Gruden led the 2002 Bucs to a Super Bowl victory in his first season with Tampa Bay. He went 57-55 in seven years with the Bucs before he was dismissed, along with general manager Bruce Allen, following a 9-7 season in 2008.
In four years as head coach of the Raiders, Gruden went 38-26 before Oakland and Tampa Bay owners worked out a deal to bring Gruden to the Bucs for four premium draft picks and $8 million.
Gruden and Tirico will work Monday's Outback Bowl broadcast for ABC at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.