Jared Cook was likely generalizing head coaches as a whole, but boy, it took a millisecond for Raider Nation to pinpoint one man in particular when the Oakland Raiders tight end dropped this dime on Tuesday:
“He knows what he’s talking about,” Cook said about head coach Jon Gruden. “You can tell the difference between a coach who knows what he’s talking about and a coach that does not. He knows what he’s talking about.”
Cook, entering his 10th year in the league, didn’t name drop, but for many, the obvious candidate for those refreshingly candid and sharp words is none other than Jack Del Rio — the head coach who preceded Gruden. The head honcho who got the Raiders to 12-4 in 2016 only to stumble to an awfully comedic 6-10 finish this past season.
No one will say it, but Raider Nation sure does think it.
Why else would owner Mark Davis be so quick to toss Del Rio out like DJ Jazzy Jeff (of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame) and bring in his coveted prize in Gruden?
“You kind of enter it cautious little at first, but he definitely has guys buying in,” Cook said of Gruden. “I definitely bought in.”
Buying into Gruden, according to Cook, isn’t difficult at all.
“He really makes you like football again. It’s enjoyable,” Cook said. “It’s not too much of bashing you or beating you up. He understands what you’re going through and he makes it fun. It’s not learn, learn, learn, beat you down, beat you down. He’s trying to teach you something and take you somewhere you’ve never been before.”
A player’s coach … Del Rio too was that type of leader. But somewhere along the way, that got fractured and was never made whole again. Like Humpty Dumpty falling off that wall. All the king’s men couldn’t mend Del Rio again.
The rumored and speculated tumultuous atmosphere of the JDR Raiders has given way to an invigorating one with Gruden.
“It’s hard to come to work everyday when you’re losing, right?” Cook began. “It’s good to have somebody, no matter what, he always focuses on the next play. Focuses on the future and never the past. What can you do for us next? Focusing on positivity and doing your job right and focusing on having fun. Being in the league, it can skew your perspective. But it’s good to have someone bring new energy and new outlook on things.
“Even in meeting rooms, you’re just sitting here going over plays. He demands a reaction from you,” Cook said. “He wants to hear from you. What’s your assignment? He asks you a lot of questions in these meetings.”
Like Cook, quarterback Derek Carr and a slew of other Raiders, the team is being challenged constantly by Gruden. The Raiders new boss wants to see if his team can overcome and adapt to adverse situations on the fly. He wants players input because it’s those questions that will create an even better outcome.
Unlike the former regime that was easily broken and held down by the littlest things, it appears this Raiders group is poised to ensure those little things are what keeps the team uplifted, even in the most difficult of times.