The Oakland Raiders are starting 2018 off with a bang with some fantastic hires. Even with a few misses, the aggressiveness serves the team going forward.
2017 did not end the way the Oakland Raiders wanted. After dropping the last four games of the season, owner Mark Davis fired former head coach Jack Del Rio after just three seasons with the team. Though Del Rio led the 2016 Raiders to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth, the downturn this past year was enough for Davis to pull the plug on a guy he gave a four-year contract extension to last offseason.
It was a bold move for Davis to make, as the Raiders are the poorest franchise in the NFL. The Raiders are his only holding. Though he could have been cheap like Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown and retained a coach that can’t win playoff games, Davis doubled down and paid a fortune to pry Jon Gruden out of the ESPN booth to be his head coach.
At a whopping $100 million, Gruden is back with the Silver and Black and will reportedly lead this team for the next 10 years. It was an aggressive move that only helps give the Raiders back the swagger they lost. Moving to Las Vegas may help the Raiders financially in the long-run, but the franchise is at least two years away from relocating.
No, the decision to hire Gruden wasn’t the first bold move this organization has done this January. Gruden made three great hires to fill out the coordinators on his staff. Prying Paul Guenther away from the Bengals when he could have been in line to replace Marvin Lewis was gutsy. Guenther had been with the Bengals for most of Lewis’ 15-year tenure in the Queen City.
Going with a guy he and quarterback Derek Carr are familiar with in Greg Olson to be the next offensive coordinator is controversial choice. Olson had been Carr’s first offensive coordinator in the league in 2014 on Dennis Allen’s staff. No, that didn’t go well, as Allen was fired mid-season and Olson would wind up with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gruden choosing to call the plays with Olson there as a familiar face could be the bridge from all the tough love Carr will be getting from this new regime. Do keep in mind that Carr did show flashes of brilliance as a rookie with Olson on the offensive staff.
It took guts to take special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia away from the Dallas Cowboys. Dan Bailey has been one of the best kickers in football under Bisaccia’s watch. However, the bond Gruden and Bisaccia have from their time together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was too strong for this reunion to not happen in the Bay Area.
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Even former players like Rich Gannon and Charles Woodson have been somewhat linked to coaching gigs on Gruden’s staff. Gannon could be Carr’s quarterbacks coach. That seems more likely than Woodson left ESPN to come coach the defensive backs. Woodson has carved out quite the gig with Randy Moss with ESPN on Monday Night Football coverage.
No, it hasn’t even stopped there. The Raiders made two very hard pushes to get over qualified candidates during this coaching/front office cycle. Teryl Austin did leave the Detroit Lions to be Guenther’s replacement as the Bengals defensive coordinator. Gruden reportedly offered him to be an assistant head coach to groom him to be a certain head coaching candidate in 2019.
Perhaps even more gutsy was the front office’s push to try to take Eliot Wolf away from the Green Bay Packers. Wolf is the son of legendary Packers general manager Ron Wolf. When Ted Thompson was relieved at the end of the season, many though Wolf would be his successor. Instead, that went to Brian Gutekunst and now Wolf has followed John Dorsey to the Cleveland Browns. The Ron Wolf front office tree is one of the best in football, no doubt.
Overall, it is paying off for the Raiders to be aggressive this offseason. The team could have thrown a pity party after how last year went. Not with Gruden back in the fold. He, Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie look to be in lockstep for what should be one of the best offseasons in franchise history. It pays to be aggressive.