Watchdog

Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

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Tirico expects Gruden to coach again

ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden is shown before an

ESPN broadcaster Jon Gruden is shown before an NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills in Foxborough, Mass. (Sept. 14, 2009) (Credit: AP)

Just to be nice, I waited a minute into my conversation with Mike Tirico Friday before asking him about the status of his "Monday Night Football" partner, Jon Gruden, who has been and will be linked to assorted coaching jobs.

"Call Jon, he's a big boy, " Tirico said, good-naturedly, considering how often he has addressed the subject.

"In all honesty, I've said this: I think Jon is going to go back and coach at some point, but I have no guess on when that some point is," Tirico said. "We've had conversations about it that I'll keep between us, because during and after this process Jon and I are going to be friends."

Still, Tirico said, there has been no sign of anything "compromising or distracting" Gruden from focusing on his primary gig, which Monday night will take MNF to Landover, Md., for the Giants-Redskins game. (The Jets visit the Titans for the Dec. 17 Monday nighter.)

The good news for ESPN is that after seven years of analyst musical chairs, Tirico remains a reliable fixture in the play-by-play seat.

"It’s like Jim Valvano: survive and advance," said Tirico, who credited working with a wide assortment of anchors on "SportsCenter" and analysts on live events for being able to adapt.

The big change this season has been going from a three-man booth to two after ESPN removed Ron Jaworski. Tirico said that while he misses Jaworski, "It’s not a huge difference. It's a matter of readjusting. As opposed to being a traffic cop, you have to be ready to ask questions. I’ve enjoyed it."

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