Jon Gruden, the traditionalist?

“Man, I’m trying to bring the game back to 1998,” the Oakland Raiders head coach said with a huge smile this past Wednesday at the NFL combine. “I’m not going to rely on GPS and all that. The old-fashioned way is the good way.”

Immediately came the barrage of backlash. Talking heads and pundits lambasted Gruden saying his second go-around with the Raiders is already a failure. They spoke of an evolved game that’s left the bitter old Gruden behind. Some even brought up Gruden using Al Davis’ infamous projector when he outlined why Lane Kiffin was no longer head coach. The dismissive nature of Gruden’s supposed anti-analytics mentality was asinine.

If you took what Gruden said as anything other than jest, that’s a shame.

The hard truth: Gruden is an OG analytics guy.

“Look, I was the first quality control guy in the history of the world when I was with the 49ers. They said ‘You’re a quality control guy.’” Gruden told beat writers at the combine. “My job was to help reveal the tendences we had. We had computer printouts back then. It’s a 46-percent blitz down. There’s a 27-percent chance they’re bringing all-out heat on third down — big deal. You still have to use your human gut. Look across the sideline and make a gut reaction.”

Gruden’s no dummy. He spent countless hours as ESPN’s Monday Night madman grilling and dissecting teams’ methods of preparation and yearly evolution. He’s well aware of how data mining can help you.

“If you’re going to have analytics, what are you doing with the data?” Gruden quipped. “I like analytics. I know a lot of guys who have hired analytics staffs and who have bought really cool equipment. And I know a lot of coaches with this data and don’t know what to do with the data.

“Like I said, we’ll get the data. I’ve got a couple of guys to do that. If anything helps, we’ll use it.”

  • It’s official: The Raiders are picking No. 10 overall in the draft. The Raiders had a live feed of the coin toss and Gruden stared at the coin on the ground for quite a while. Sums up the fan base reaction well. You could see Reggie McKenzie mouth, “bad flip”.
  • 10th overall is a good slot for a trade down. Of course, that would be dependent upon a quarterback falling in the Raiders’ lap. 10 is also a good spot to trade up from.
  • Gruden constantly mentioning blocking tight end and fullback during interviews is glorious. The free agent market for a blocking tight end is thin (Lee Smith, one of the better blockers in the league, is free) but the draft has some intriguing talent.
  • Of note: Gruden said another left-footed booter would be the competition for Giorgio Tavecchio if another kicker was brought in. Not too many of those around so it appears Papa Giorgio has (ahem) a leg-up on the gig.
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