The Raiders once traded away Jon Gruden, only to see him win the Super Bowl against them the next season. As the team reportedly tries to lure Gruden back to NFL head coaching with an offer it hopes he can’t refuse, it should be excited about returning to AFC championship level soon.
Jack Del Rio did an admirable job in his three seasons as Oakland’s coach, leading the team to a 25-23 record and the its first playoff berth since 2002. But the opportunity to rehire Gruden, who led the franchise to a 34-26 record from 1998 to 2001, is too good to pass up.
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Here are five reasons why the Raiders can expect Gruden to be greater for them than he was the first time around:
Gruden is perfect for fixing Derek Carr
Carr was mostly ineffective in his fourth season as the Raiders’ starting QB. He looked gun-shy in his return from the leg fracture that cost him the end of the ’16 season, and a midseason back injury made this season even rougher. He also didn’t get much help from his wideouts as Amari Cooper and MIchael Crabtree disappointed. The disastrous change in offensive coordinator from Bill Musgrave to Todd Downing also was a big factor in the dysfunction.
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The rhythm and confidence of previous seasons weren’t there for Carr, who signed a lucrative long-term contract in the summer. He has a lot of Rich Gannon in him, except he’s a lot younger than Gruden’s most effective Oakland QB was, and he’s a long-term piece who can return to MVP-caliber play. Carr is Gruden’s type of grinder, a player he can mold into a West Coast passing paragon.
Gruden is a perfect for a Las Vegas relocation
Vegas is a city of headliners, and soon the Raiders will be on the marquee there, entertaining miillions on Sundays. Gruden has become a television superstar with ESPN and has a brand of his own that will further announce the Silver and Black’s presence when they arrive in their new home.
Getting to coach again in the right situation is one thing; being the face of a franchise — and a part owner, which reportedly is part of the Raiders’ offer — in leading a potentially transcendent transition is a nice bonus.
Gruden is perfect for an AFC power shakeup
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady still rule the conference, well after besting Gruden’s team in the infamous Tuck Rule Game in the 2001 playoffs, but aside from Belichick and other established sideline leaders such as Mike Tomlin, Andy Reid and John Harbaugh, there’s a coaching void in the AFC.
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In that environment, Gruden’s experience can have a big impact in turning the Raiders into a consistent force, something they haven’t been since he led them. As the Patriots, Stelers, Chiefs and Ravens inch closer to the end of perennial contention, Oakland’s young nucleus will need someone to mold it into the next great team. Gruden has the chops to do that.
Gruden is perfect for a more intense defense
Gruden is known for his great work with quarterbacks and the passing game, but he’s sporting a Super Bowl ring because of what he inherited on the other side of the ball in Tampa Bay, players such as Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and John Lynch. The Raiders need to build around their elite defender, Khalil Mack, with more that players who only show flashes.
The Buccaneers played strong complementary football with Gruden. With the Raiders, he will put in place the right defensive staff and get the team playing hard and fast in all three phases.
Gruden is perfect for a refreshing second stint
There was always a danger in Gruden’s younger days that he would burn out, given how hard he worked to outcoach everyone. After being away for almost a decade (he last coached in 2008), you can bet he will be rejuvenated for the challenge and will appreciate interacting with younger players again on a regular basis. He should have learned well from his weaknesses after being fired by the Buccaneers, and he should have improved upon the strengths that made him the hottest coach in the league.
The timing for a Gruden-Raiders reunion is perfect, and both sides are in good position to take the best from the past and pour that into a more promising future.