Once fullback Keith Smith saw Jon Gruden jaw-jacking at a Raiders practice, he looked over at Rich Bisaccia and it all came together as to why the two former Dallas Cowboys are now in Oakland.
Bisaccia is Gruden’s most trusted lieutenant dating back to their days as Tampa Bay Buccaneers and both are renowned for their profanity-ladened coaching style. It was a given once Gruden became the Raiders boss again, Bisaccia would be Oakland-bound from Dallas. And, as a result, Smith too goes from Cowboy to Raider.
“They’re two peas in pod,” Smith said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “I think it’s just how genuine they are. Their coaching styles are real intense because they care about what they’re doing and about their players. I think that’s a thing the NFL can lack at times because it’s such a business. Coaches can’t break that barrier and treat you like a piece of meat.”
Gruden and Bisaccia are so in-tune with their coaching style, it’s almost scary. Both make the player-coach relationship as imperative as learning the Xs and Os.
“That’s definitely the thing coach taps into, the personal relationship. Because when he’s on you 24/7, that his way of showing he loves you and sees the potential in you as a football player,” Smith said. “If he’s not yelling at you, you know something is wrong because he doesn’t believe in you.”
Gruden surely has faith in Smith. Likely coming with high recommendations from Bisaccia, Smith, a 6-foot, 242-pound 26-year old former-linebacker-turned fullback seeks and welcomes contact.
“Oh, I almost say I spoke this into existence because hearing all the hype of (Gruden) coming back and him talking about fullbacks,” Smith said. “It was a dream come true, now he’s really a guy who really values the position. For me to be in the position to be that guy for him, it gives me much more motivation to be by best.
“Gruden is trying to bring back smashmouth football and that’s what we fullbacks like to do.”
Gruden — sounding like a broken record — constantly says if the Raiders truly want to get Marshawn Lynch back to Beast Mode, he’ll need a lead blocker in front of him at fullback and blocking tight ends on the flanks. Smith is champing at the bit to fill the bulldozer role.
“I still keep the same mentality, the linebacker mentality,” Smith said. “I’m always out there to attack and hit somebody. I think that works to my advantage.
“The hype and aura behind Gruden’s plans of going back to a smashmouth run game, it’s exciting. That means I’m going to be hitting more people and getting more playing time. That’s going to be big for us — establishing the run and making some noise with them pads.”
While snaps were limited for Smith on offense as a Cowboy, he made the most of his time spent on special teams. While his offensive role likely increases, expect Smith to be fully vested in special teams too, especially considering it’s Bisaccia running that crew.
“Special teams is a lot about experience and trust. Especially with Bisaccia, he has a pretty hefty playbook. He’s all about trust,” Smith said “If he doesn’t trust you to do your job, you’re not going to be on the field.”