The secret is out. Raider Nation is not happy with this year’s version of the Oakland Raiders.
Now, the playoffs are still very much at play, and perhaps the Silver and Black will get it together just in time for a post-season run. However, that’s not likely, and if the team does struggle, they’re going to want answers. Apathetic excuses and mild-mannered shrugs will not be enough for a fan base that is already dealing with a looming relocation.
Many fans have called for Jack Del Rio to be fired, and it’s hard to blame them. Some of his decisions have been baffling this year, and there’s no reason for a team this good to be playing this bad. A vocal part of that group insists we need an “offensive guru” to come in and fix this team, an offensive guru like Jon Gruden.
Jon Gruden Is Not the Answer for the Oakland Raiders
Once upon a time, Jon Gruden was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and things were good. He won 38 of his 64 games as the Raiders head coach, taking them from consecutive 8-8 seasons to 12 and 10 win seasons. Gruden was able to revitalize the careers of Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, and Tim Brown, and was it not for the rise of Tom Brady or Al Davis’ ego, he probably would’ve led the team to a Super Bowl.
There’s no question that once upon a time, Gruden was the man for the Raiders. However, that time? Well that was 2001. The last time Gruden was Oakland’s head coach, Brady was a beloved underdog. The last time Gruden was anyone’s coach? Nearly a decade ago. The game has passed him by, and there’s evidence everywhere.
No Way, Tampa Bay
Al Davis took a big gamble when he managed to “trade” Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two first round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million in cash. For a minute, it looked like it was going to pay off. With Bill Callahan taking Gruden’s place, the Raiders were living large.
Gannon had the best year of his career, winning the MVP award and setting Oakland’s record for most passing yards in a season with 4,689, as well as 26 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. His 67.6 completion percentage was also the best of his career. The Raiders won 11 games and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Before moving on, isn’t it a little strange that Oakland’s offense was better without Gruden? Sure, as it becomes obvious later, it was completely his scheme, but if he’s going to get credit for winning a Super Bowl with someone else’s team, he shouldn’t get the credit for a team he wasn’t coaching, and the 2002 Raiders were statistically better than the 2001 version in basically every category.
Our Worst Nightmare
As everyone who even pretends to be a member of the Raider Nation knows, Davis’ gamble proved to be very, very costly. Because while the 2002 Oakland Raiders won the AFC Championship, they encountered someone very familiar in the Super Bowl as Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers had won the NFC Championship.
It was a bloodbath, as Gruden’s defenders knew every play the Raiders were going to run before they ran it, and the game never even seemed close. They lost 48-21, and the man they traded away won his first Super Bowl.
Deep down, I think this is probably the biggest reason some members of Raider Nation want Gruden back. He’s like the ex-girlfriend that got away. Some fans believe that if Gruden were to return, it would somehow undo the trade, and they could return to the “glory” days of the early 2000’s. But, as devastating as that Super Bowl loss was, and as much as he helped those early 2000’s teams succeed, it’s not like that was the beginning of a dynasty.
Happily Ever After?
After that Super Bowl season, Gruden lost far more than he won in Tampa Bay. He only enjoyed one more season with double-digit wins and had as many losing seasons as winning seasons. After the Super Bowl, he went 45-51 and had only two playoff appearances, both of which he lost.
Despite the fact that he was, and supposedly still is, some kind of offensive genius, his offenses were never any good in Tampa Bay. Only the 2003 Bucs were in the top ten for offensive yardage, and they only won seven games that year. And as for points? The highest his offense was ever ranked was 18th. As Tony Dungy’s defense left in free agency and retired, his defense stopped being as talented too and was never as good as they were in 2002.
Ultimately, people need to realize that Gruden was fired for a reason. And it’s true that every coach gets fired, and it’s very rare that someone retires with the team that gives them their first break, but it’s not like Gruden walked away from the game when he was at his best.
What people need to realize is that Gruden was fired a decade ago for not being the right coach. What makes you think a decade of sitting the booth has made him a coach? Speaking of which…
He Said What?
How does anyone watch Monday Night Football, listen to Gruden in the broadcasting booth, and think that’s the guy they want coaching their team. There are several websites dedicated to the nonsense he’s spewed in that booth. He says ridiculous things and honestly, spends most of each game just saying really obvious things about whoever is playing well. Sure, that’s his job, but in an age where Tony Romo is explaining the defense and giving audiences a quarterback’s perspective, it’s a little annoying.
If Not Coaching… General Manager?
Some people agree that Gruden isn’t the guy to coach the Raiders, but they believe he could help as the general manager. That makes even less sense than as a head coach. Completely ignoring everyone’s opinions about Reggie McKenzie for a second, what makes anyone think Gruden is remotely qualified to be a general manager?
Think of his best teams. Which of those players did he draft? Gannon? Nope, he was a journeyman who broke out with the Kansas City Chiefs. Rice? Ya know, most people remember him for breaking NFL records as a San Francisco 49er. Brown? His time in Oakland predated Gruden by quite a few years.
Fast-forward to the Buccaneers. Who did he add to those teams? Dungy was the architect of that great defense, all Gruden did was sign and trade for a bunch of really weird quarterbacks. Remember when he had seven quarterbacks on the roster?
Regardless of how you feel about McKenzie, Gruden would be a far, far, far worse general manager for so many reasons. And if you really need proof, just remember that he said he would’ve taken Johnny Manziel over Derek Carr, and even called the team to tell them on draft night.
The Harsh Truth
Nostalgia is one hell of a drug. If I could bottle nostalgia, I’d empty the pockets of every fool in the world. Gruden is like that ex that got away, and you’re remembering his time as your coach through rose-colored glasses. But it’s time to move on. He wasn’t John Madden in his prime, and that prime is long gone. Hell, the Washington Redskins leaned on nostalgia when they brought Joe Gibbs back, but the game had even passed him by, and Gruden is no Gibbs.
Jack Del Rio might not be the answer in Oakland. In fact, he might even be the problem. It’s easy to remember how fun it was to root for a well-coached team and even to long for it. But bringing back a coach from 16 years ago who has been out of coaching for a decade isn’t the answer at all. It’s time to move on, Raider Nation.