AP Photo/Ron Jenkins
Everyone has a calling, and the lucky ones among us find that calling.
Teachers teach, broadcasters broadcast, and coaches coach.
For Cris Collinsworth – the color analyst on Sunday Night Football since 2009 – that calling, that desire to fulfill a calling is why Jon Gruden ultimately decided to leave the broadcast booth and return to coach the Oakland Raiders.
"I know him [Gruden] well enough to know that competition is really what it's about with him, and there is no competition in broadcasting," said Collinsworth Tuesday. "There is a little bit. We all want to be a little better than whoever else is out there, and all that kind of stuff, but there's no standard for that, and Jon had that ultimate feeling, and as you get a little older, you start going, 'okay, what's going to be the most exciting that happens to me the rest of my life,' and when you compare it to playing in the Super Bowl, winning a championship, there's nothing that's ever going to compare to that."
Gruden has indeed enjoyed that championship taste once before, but not as a Raider, a fact that was key in his decision to eventually return to the sidelines.
And as Collinsworth said, once you've experienced the thrill of a championship, it's a feeling that can't be replicated, no matter how hard you try.
"Walking out on the field on game day, and playing against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl; how are you going to get better than that," Collinsworth posited. "And so once you've tasted that bit of magic, you can go make money; he could have lived forever on what he was making on Monday Night Football, been happy, been on his boat, and drinking beer and having a great time. He could have done that forever, but you don't get that moment again, you just don't."
The last time Gruden stalked the sidelines was a decade ago in Tampa Bay, and while he hasn't been a head coach since 2008, the man now calling plays for the Raiders hasn't been dormant for the past 10 years. In fact, quite the opposite, and Collinsworth believes that the work Gruden accomplished as a broadcaster will hold "tremendous" value for him this time around.
"It'll also teach him a little patience, because in some ways it's a bit humbling to be a broadcaster too," Collinsworth said. "Because no matter how you look at it, you are an outsider, and you get close, and you know these guys pretty well, and you see some of who they are a bit, but it's humbling to be outside the game, and not inside the game trying to beat somebody's butt, and I know that's what happened to Jon. It tugs at me all the time too."
Collinsworth continued, "There's nothing like driving home at the end of the day, and going we won, or we lost. That's pretty cool."