Reunited and it Feels So Grud
The Oakland Raiders are bringing back Jon Gruden. Gruden coached the team from 1998-2001 until he was unceremoniously traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who defeated the Raiders 48-21 in the ensuing Super Bowl. I, along with many other fans, believed that the damage done to the relationship between the Raiders and Gruden was irreparable. Apparently not.
Gruden, it has been reported, will be announced as the new head coach on Tuesday in a press conference that will be put on by the Raiders and will certainly see owner Mark Davis and GM Reggie McKenzie in attendance to announce the reunion. Gruden has reportedly signed a 10-year, $100 million contract – the biggest ever handed out to a coach. There were also talks that to entice Gruden, Davis had offered an ownership stake in the team, but there was no word on how much or if that part of the deal was ever consummated.
The Raiders were a disappointing 6-10 and finished 3rd in the AFC West this year after last year finishing 12-4 in a season that was derailed at the end by MVP-candidate Derek Carr’s broken leg and the subsequent playoff loss to the Houston Texans. There was a lot of optimism in Raider Nation that the team would improve, especially after adding Oakland Native and powerhouse running back Marshawn Lynch, but it was not to be. Carr regressed and the receiving corps had an astonishing number of drops that contributed to the lack of efficiency from the offense that finished 23rd in points at 18.8/game, and the defense struggled to stop opposing teams, allowing 350 yards and 23.3 points per game.
In giving Gruden an unprecedented 10-year contract, the Raiders are betting on Gruden’s ability to work with young quarterbacks to revitalize Derek Carr’s career and set him on the path he was on last season when he threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions, compared to this year where he played the full 16-game schedule but threw for only 3,496 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 picks. Gruden may have been out of coaching for nearly a decade, but the man surrounded himself with other coaches, incoming players and other football-centric people at ESPN, so he hasn’t been out of the game as much as some other coaches who have retired in the same time span.
As a Raiders fan, I look forward to Gruden roaming the sidelines again. I also really like the move because they will need a strong coach to keep the team focused as their home shifts from Oakland to Las Vegas, where there is a cornucopia of distractions. Gruden is the right man for the job. Don’t get me wrong- I think Jack Del Rio did well in his time here and helped turn this franchise around, but Gruden looks like he’s here for the long haul, and I couldn’t be happier.