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The Franchise 04-03-2018 12:45 PM

The Raiders have a Gruden problem

Itís important to remember that Jon Gruden, Oaklandís $100 million retread of a head coach, wasnít hired to make personnel decisions. Those duties, at least in theory, should fall in the hands of long-time GM Reggie McKenzie. But in looking at Oaklandís offseason transformation, it would be naÔve to think McKenzie is running the show. Grudenís fingerprints are all over the Raidersí new roster and thatís a problem.

We knew the Raiders were taking a risk in bringing back Gruden, who last coached in the NFL with Tampa Bay in 2008. In his heyday, Gruden was lauded as a coaching prodigy. He lived up to that label by winning Super Bowl XXXVII, becoming the youngest head coach in history (at the time) to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. But Gruden has never made it back to the big gameóin fact, he hasnít won a playoff game in two tries since reaching his apex in 2002.

While many remember Gruden as an offensive mastermind, his coaching record, particularly during his seven-year run in Tampa (he went just 57-55) says otherwise. The 54-year-old has rehabbed his image in subsequent years with his stellar analysis on Monday Night Football as well as his enlightening Quarterback Camp series on ESPN. He may have been an engaging television personalityóhence his endorsements with Bridgestone, Corona, Dunkin Donuts and Hooters, among othersóbut Gruden was merely an average NFL coach the first time around. Even his lone Super Bowl came on the strength of a stacked roster he inherited from Tony Dungy.

Giving full roster controlóand $100 millionóto an average-at-best coach who hasnít been behind an NFL sideline in a literal decade seems like a reckless misstep for a team that looked like it was finally onto something after making the playoffs in 2016. But here we are, living in Grudenís warped football dystopia, where long-snappers and converted fullbacks reign supreme.

Letís look at the damage, shall we? Gruden did get one thing right this offseason. While not necessarily an upgrade on T.J. Carrie, who departed in free agency, Rashaan Melvin was a solid addition to the Raidersí secondary. A late bloomer, the 28-year-old was in the midst of a career year with Indianapolis in 2017 before a nagging hand injury cut his season short. But aside from that peace offering, Oaklandís offseason has been one head-scratcher after another.

Exhibit A: Doug Martin. Itís true that Martin was a first-team All-Pro with the Bucs in 2015. Itís also true that he has statistically been the leagueís worst running back over the last two seasons, finishing dead last in yards per carry in both 2016 and 2017. On top of that, Martin turned 29 in January (thatís still younger than incumbent, Marshawn Lynch) and is coming off a PED suspension that cost him the first three games of 2017. The fact that Martin has a legitimate chance to start next season would be reason enough to question Grudenís judgment, but it gets worse. Rather than staying the course with Michael Crabtree, who has led the Raiders in receiving touchdowns each of the last three seasons, Oakland sent the former first-round pick packing and replaced him with an even older Jordy Nelson, who is coming off a career-worst year in Green Bay.

Breno Giacomini did more than earn PFFís worst tackle grade last season. He earned PFFís worst grade of ANY player at any position. DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Breshad Perrimanóall of them looked like world-beaters compared to the Hindenberg known as Breno Gomes Giacomini. Naturally, heís the current front-runner to start at right tackle for Oakland. And while division-rival Kansas City was putting the finishing touches on a three-year deal with playmaker Sammy Watkins, the Raiders were busy making Andrew DePaola one of the leagueís highest-paid long-snappers. Neat.

How about Keith Smith? Ever heard of him? Heís a former linebacker who logged 128 snaps at fullback for the Cowboys last year. By the grace of God, the Raiders decided to give him a two-year, $4.2 million (*immediately spits out drink*) contract. Oakland already had an established fullback in Jamize Olawale (heís since been traded to Dallas), but when Keith Smith is available, you donít walk to sign that manóyou RUN. The same goes for Josh Johnson, a 31-year-old journeyman the Raiders signed to compete with Connor Cook for backup reps behind starting quarterback Derek Carr. Johnson, a fifth-round pick of Grudenís í08 Bucs, last attempted an NFL pass in 2011, though he did have a few kneel-downs for the Bengals in 2013. Did I mention Gruden stole his own son Deuce away from the Redskins (coached by Grudenís younger brother, Jay) to be the Raidersí new strength and conditioning coach? That must have been an awkward phone call. Sorry, bro. Itís just business.

So how did the Raiders, pray tell, afford such lavish expenditures? Easyóthey unloaded a pair of All-Pros. Itís boilerplate stuff, really. What could go wrong trading return man Cordarrelle Patterson (second-highest kick return average in NFL history) to the Patriots? Or cutting punter Marquette King (third in net punt average last season). Who needs that guy, right? The Raiders also declined to re-sign Sebastian Janikowski, he of 414 career field goals including a 63-yarder, an NFL record at the time, in 2011.

Right about now youíre probably wondering what in Godís green earth this Gruden fella is up to and I donít blame you. Iíve found myself pondering the same thing. Itís one of the five stages of Gruden Grief. While the inner workings of Grudenís brain will always be a mystery to us (Iím imagining a 24-hour loop of Spider 2 Y Banana), reports from beat writers Bill Williamson of and Vic Tafur of The Athletic give us a window into the coachís thought process. According to Tafur, there were ďwhispers of Kingís personality not clicking with GrudenísĒ while Williamson agrees that Gruden wanted to send a ďmessageĒ by showing King the door.

This is a side of Gruden we didnít see on MNF. Gruden was overwhelmingly positive as a television analyst but now that the man has a football team to run, heís not messing around. Part of the fun of football Twitter is overthinking things and the outcry over Kingís release is a prime example of us doing just that. King is certainly an upper echelon punter and a boon to Oaklandís special teams unit, but at the end of the day, heís just a punter. Life will go on.

The problem isnít Kingóitís Grudenís outdated, ego-driven approach to team building. You can make the argument, as many Gruden supporters already have, that Kingís release was a cap-saving move (it freed up $2.9 million). Those same sheep will argue that Kingís four personal fouls over the last two seasons were a detriment to the team. But if Tafur and Williamsonís reporting is accurate, the real reason the Raiders cut King was because of his colorful personality and the threat it posed to Grudenís hardnosed, no-nonsense style of coaching. King isnít a disruptive playeróheís good at his job and likes to have some fun. But Gruden wouldnít know the difference.

Gruden said at the NFL Combine that he wants to bring the Raiders back to 1998 by playing a throwback brand of football. Thatís almost as cringe-worthy as Bill Polian saying Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson should switch positions because heís too small (6í3Ē/211) to play quarterback. Wake up, guys. This isnít 1998. Itís 2018. Gruden can scoff at analytics all he wants but the reality is, forward-thinking teams like the Patriots and Eagles are the ones having success while members of the cocoon, as Evan Silva calls it, are being left behind.

Is it any wonder the Browns went 0-16 last year with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams trotting out the same ineffective defense week after week, regardless of opponent? The Patriots and Eagles were chameleons, routinely exposing their opponentsí weaknesses with exhaustive game-planning. Weíre not even three months into the Gruden Era in Oaklandóthe second Gruden Era, I should sayóand the man in charge has already admitted heís not willing to play ball. Rather than adapt to an ever-changing analytics-driven landscape, Gruden is going to do things his way, which apparently means dumping a pair of All-Pro special teamers and a proven touchdown scorer in favor of a backup QB he coached 10 years ago, a running back who canít play anymore and the worst tackle in football by a landslide, according to PFF.

Thereís something to be said for unpopular personnel decisions. Bill Belichick makes them all the time. He traded Chandler Jones when it was time to pay him. He dealt Jimmy Garoppolo when it became clear that Jimmy G and Tom Brady could no longer coexist. He benched Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl and let him walk in free agency. LeGarrette Blount, Jamie Collins, Dion Lewis, Logan Ryan Ö the list goes on and on. Those are tough moves to make and not all of them have worked in New Englandís favor. Belichickís decision to exile Butler may have cost the Patriots a Super Bowl this past season. But when youíve won over 200 games and seven Super Bowl rings, you tend to get the benefit of the doubt. If Gruden was expecting to get that kind of leeway after spending a decade up in the broadcast booth, heíd better think again. This is the NFL, the ultimate ďwhat have you done for me latelyĒ league. The answer: not much.

As badly as Gruden squandered free agency, the Raiders still have some intriguing pieces. Carr is being paid like a franchise quarterback, even if he didnít play like one last year, while pass-rusher Khalil Mack continues to be an unstoppable supernova. And despite frequent lapses, Amari Cooper remains one of the most promising young receivers in football. Thereís no telling what could happen in a wide-open AFC West. But if Gruden canít get with the times, 2018 could pass the Raiders by. 04-03-2018 12:46 PM

Holy wall of text batman. 04-03-2018 12:47 PM

I've seen on twitter that Kalil and his camp have turned down 100 mil. He's gonna be expensive AF.

KCChiefsFan88 04-03-2018 12:47 PM

10 million words to say that Gruden is average/mediocre.

Hoover 04-03-2018 12:58 PM

This looks like an article that attempts to save face for Reggie McKenzie, who face it, hasn't done well in Oakland. Any idiot on the street could have drafted Mack, Carr, and Cooper.

Gruden is a problem. But before one judges their FA moves, I want to see who they draft.

lawrenceRaider 04-03-2018 01:04 PM

For the love of god.

BossChief 04-03-2018 01:04 PM


Originally Posted by (Post 13501254)
I've seen on twitter that Kalil and his camp have turned down 100 mil. He's gonna be expensive AF.

He is next in line to be the highest paid edge rusher in the league.

Von Miller got 6/114 when the cap was 155m. The cap has gone up to 177m this year, an increase of 14% since Von signed.

That puts his current market value barely over 6 years for 130 million.

Pay it or someone else will.

Your move, Chucky.

RunKC 04-03-2018 01:12 PM

His moves havenít looked good but pump the brakes. Dude hasnít even had a game or a draft yet.

Titty Meat 04-03-2018 01:23 PM

Dwayne Harris is gonna out up Tyreek Hill numbers in that offense

BucEyedPea 04-03-2018 01:25 PM

Gruden has always preferred to buy the groceries.

Coochie liquor 04-03-2018 01:26 PM


Originally Posted by RunKC (Post 13501279)
His moves havenít looked good but pump the brakes. Dude hasnít even had a game or a draft yet.

This is how I feel. Although Iím praying he bombs which is highly possible. Fade are stuck with that albatross of a contract for a long ass time!

pugsnotdrugs19 04-03-2018 01:27 PM

When he was first hired, I expected a short term boost. I thought he’d come in and at least get them to play hard and win 10 or so games in 2018.

Now, seeing their moves... I’m iffy at best. I think the whole thing could go off the rails.

Hog's Gone Fishin 04-03-2018 01:33 PM

He was average before. Been out 20 years . Getting rid of his weapons to make a point that he's boss. I'm liken it.

Raiders will continue to battle Denver for the #1 draft pick.

Bowser 04-03-2018 01:45 PM

This move was made to sell luxury boxes and PSL's in the new Vegas stadium first and foremost. Let's see what kind of draft he puts together before we discount him completely.

lawrenceRaider 04-03-2018 01:47 PM


Originally Posted by Hog's Gone Fishin (Post 13501327)
He was average before. Been out 20 years . Getting rid of his weapons to make a point that he's boss. I'm liken it.

Raiders will continue to battle Denver for the #1 draft pick.

So which "weapon" was a difference maker that was traded or released? Hint, none of the guys listed were difference makers.

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