Yes, Jon Gruden is the right man for the Oakland Raiders rebuild
By Joey Patton
After a series of controversial decisions and a 4-12 season, Jon Gruden is under fire, but is the right man for the Oakland Raiders rebuild.
It’s hard to deny that Jon Gruden has made some questionable moves since his homecoming, most notably his decision to trade away a generational talent in Khalil Mack. However, Gruden has not made any moves without keeping the bigger picture in mind.
In fact, Jon Gruden is doing exactly what any coach with a ten-year contract ought to do.
The truth is simple. Gruden’s Raiders aren’t playing for Oakland (or Phoenix, or Fresno, or London, or wherever the hell they’ll end up next season)- they’re playing for Vegas.
After leaving New England on account of disagreements with Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, legendary head coach Bill Parcells told the press, “It’s just like a friend of mine told me, if they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Jon Gruden arrived in Oakland knowing that the team he inherited from Jack Del Rio was not a championship-caliber team. So, rather than trying to play the hand he was dealt, Gruden opted for an entirely different approach: turn the team upside-down and rebuild from the bottom up.
Gruden’s first major move in the rebuild was releasing wideout Michael Crabtree, who was notorious for removing himself from games and sitting out on crucial plays despite his coaches’ disapproval. Shortly thereafter came the decision to release punter Marquette King. Although King was beloved by the Raider Nation and was widely regarded as one of the league’s premier punters, the new front office ultimately decided his extracurricular shenanigans outweighed the benefits he brought to the team.
After removing the players he didn’t want in the locker room, Gruden brought in a group of experienced veterans, such as Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin, who could wrap their heads around his ever-so-complex playbook and provide mentorship for the team’s younger members.
As the regular season progressed, Gruden and owner Mark Davis doubled-down on their commitment to the rebuild and traded two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper to the Cowboys in exchange for a first round draft pick.
Then, on December 10, came the biggest move yet: the Raiders announced they had cut ties with General Manager Reggie McKenzie, the man who had served as the team’s top executive since 2012. McKenzie racked up quite a few accomplishments during his tenure in Oakland, most notably his excellent decision-making in the 2014 NFL Draft and his 2016 PFWA Executive of the Year Award. But with just one winning season in seven years, Gruden decided it was best for the team to move forward without McKenzie on board.
With key players and management personnel removed from the picture, Gruden has completed the tear-down part of his rebuild and can now focus on building up the team he wants to lead to greatness. Or as Parcells would put it, he’s tossed out the old, expired foods and can finally start shopping for the groceries he wants to cook his dream dish.
Now, with a gutted franchise and a plethora of pieces to work with, Gruden will have no excuse to not make his dream a reality.
The Raiders rang in the new year by hiring NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock to serve as the team’s General Manager. The team is giving Mayock- the world’s most renowned Draft Guru- not one, not two, but three first round picks in this year’s draft, in addition to the two first-rounders he’ll have in next year’s draft.
In 2018, the Raiders were competitive against playoff teams like the Chiefs and Colts with minimal talent on their roster. If Gruden was able to take the NFL’s oldest and arguably least-talented team toe-to-toe with some of the league’s finest, fans ought to be ecstatic when thinking about what he could accomplish with a legitimate roster loaded with young talent.
As noted, the Raiders have five first round picks in the next two NFL Drafts, and with Mike Mayock guiding Gruden in the war room, the Nation should be confident that the team will score on the majority of those picks. In addition to their draft capital, the Raiders have an abundance of salary cap space they won’t be afraid to exercise on this year’s stacked free agency pool.
Fans of the Silver and Black need not panic, because Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock and the entire organization have a plan to return the Raiders to their commitment to excellence. Though the team may not know where it will call home next season, one thing is for sure: the future looks bright in Vegas.