Several other coaches have attempted the move, with the most successful being Dick Vermeil, who spent 14 years broadcasting between his burnout and second act that began in St. Louis and led to a Super Bowl title for the Rams.
Others had more problems in their return, most notably Art Shell. The Hall of Fame offensive lineman was fired by the Raiders following the 1994 season despite a 54-38 record and three playoff berths in his five full seasons. More than a decade later, Shell’s second stint with the franchise lasted one year and led to just two wins.
Gruden could be the latest coach to follow this path. He was fired by Tampa Bay following the 2008 season and has spent the past nine years as an announcer at ESPN. The Raiders fired Jack Del Rio following a disappointing six-win season and appear set on bringing back Gruden.
He has said he believes there’s a “good chance” he will get the job in Oakland after interviewing with owner Mark Davis.
Here is a look at several coaches who took at least a four-year break before returning as head coaches:
PAUL BROWN: Brown was the founder and original coach of the Cleveland Browns and led the franchise to 10 straight title games in the All-America Football Conference and NFL, including three NFL titles. Brown was fired by owner Art Modell following the 1962 season. After a brief hiatus, Brown returned to football as the part owner, coach and general manager of the AFL expansion Cincinnati Bengals, who began play in 1968. Brown coached the Bengals for eight seasons, made the postseason three times but never won another playoff game a coach.
DICK VERMEIL: Vermeil had a successful seven-year run as coach of Philadelphia from 1976-82, taking the Eagles to their first Super Bowl following the 1980 season. But Vermeil burned out of coaching and stepped away after the 1982 season. Vermeil then launched a successful broadcast career before finally going back to the sidelines in 1997 with the Rams. St. Louis won just nine games his first two years before breaking through with the Super Bowl title in the 1999 season behind quarterback Kurt Warner. Vermeil retired again after that title only to return to coaching in 2001 with Kansas City. He posted a 44-36 record in five seasons with the Chiefs.
JOE GIBBS: Gibbs won three Super Bowl titles with three separate quarterbacks during a 12-year run in Washington. He shocked the team when he retired two months after the end of the 1992 season and spent the ensuing years as an announcer and a NASCAR team owner. Gibbs returned to coaching in 2004 and his second stint in Washington wasn’t nearly as effective as his first. The team went 30-34 in his four seasons, making the playoffs twice and winning one game before retiring again.
MIKE DITKA: Iron Mike Ditka had one of the most successful coaching tenures ever in Chicago, winning 106 regular-season games for the most in franchise history besides George Halas. Ditka became legendary in the city thanks to leading the Bears to their only Super Bowl title following the 1985 season, but he was fired after going 5-11 in 1992. After a four-year break, Ditka was hired to coach the New Orleans Saints in 1997. He won just 15 games in three years and his most notable move during that time was trading his entire stash of 1999 draft picks and a 2000 first-rounder for the rights to draft running back Ricky Williams.
ART SHELL: Shell was let go by the Raiders following the 1994 season as late owner Al Davis wanted a fresh start for the team for its move back to Oakland. Davis later said he regretted the move and brought Shell back in 2006. Shell had spent his first six years away from the Raiders as an assistant coach but had been out of the profession entirely for five seasons when Davis hired him a second time. The tenure was a disaster from the start as players didn’t respond to Shell and his systems were outdated. Oakland went 2-14 in his one season before Davis fired him a second time.
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