ESPN: Gruden to Replace Kornheiser
ESPN introduced Jon Gruden on Monday as the replacement for Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football, and the network insisted the game analyst was stepping down voluntarily.
ESPN executive Norby Williamson said Kornheiser, who avoids flying, "did a phenomenal job putting up with the travel" in his three MNF seasons. But after looking at the upcoming MNF schedule, Williamson said Kornheiser "ultimately came back and said, 'Look, I've had a great run and the time is right for me."
Williamson added, "With Tony, ultimately, it was his decision."
Gruden, fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after last season, appeared on the NFL Network's coverage of the scouting combine and draft. Monday, he refused to rule out a return to coaching - "I dearly miss coaching" - but said he's "proud and excited" to join MNF.
"If I can withstand the pressure, maybe I can keep this job," Gruden said. "This is a big change for me. I don't know if I can even dress well enough to go on TV now, if you look at my wardrobe. ... I'm going to take it one day at a time."
Gruden drew interest from other networks, but declined to talk about other networks except to say, "I can't say there were any specific offers I was weighing."
Williamson, on why ESPN wanted to hire Gruden, said he was "quotable" as a coach and "when you look at the resume, there aren't many people running around who've won a Super Bowl and 100 NFL games."
Gruden will work Monday night games with returning play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico - who handed Gruden the Lombardi Trophy after he coached Tampa Bay to a win in Super Bowl XXXVII on ABC - and returning game analyst Ron Jaworski.
Gruden said Jaworski is "charismatic, smart, works his tail off ... I'm going to try to not get in his way."
Williamson said Kornheiser, who will remain co-host of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption afternoon talk show, did a "phenomenal job" on MNF. Gruden called his predecessor a "dynamic, colorful human being."
Kornheiser, who Monday was playing in a Jaworski charity golf tournament, said in a statement: "If I could hand-pick 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 said he's willing to be critical on-air. "I'm not going to be a negative piece of barbed wire with a growl on my face," he said. "The most important thing is to just be myself."