Hot takes are a natural part of sports media and being in an opinion business, but there are times when hot takes really come back to make one look foolish (or really smart). Colin Cowherd, who is definitely not afraid of having an opinion especially one that gets thrown right back into his face, decided to slam the Oakland Raiders in his yearly projections on Fox Sports Radio.
Burying the Raiders coming into this season is definitely not a new phenomenon. There are many skeptical commentators around football that believe Jon Gruden will struggle and they also have little faith in the recent draft class. Cowherd expressed this opinion and several others in his anti-Raiders proclamation. He also decided to make a very interesting declaration:
“Gruden is going to have to prove that you can leave an industry for 10 years, be on the periphery, step back in, and out coach people. I don’t think you can leave Silicon Valley for 10 years, come back and go ‘Hey, I’m Mark Zuckerburg’.”
Choosing Silicon Valley as a focal point to make comparisons is a bit of a motif for Cowherd. He likes to set himself up as someone who is always searching for the best person in a specialty to then mold his ideas around. This isn’t new thinking of course and using lessons from those who are smarter than you is actually a great idea. That said, there is a fundamental flaw in the example he uses. Namely, someone actually did exactly what he says one cannot do.
Steve Jobs, you may have heard of him. He helped launch Apple in 1976 and in 1985 was in the middle of some political squabbles for control of the company when he was forced out. Approximately eleven years later, Jobs returned to the company as chief executive after Apple purchased NeXT, and proceeded to revolutionize the world with this bizarre gadget called the iPod and its deranged cousins the iPad and iPhone.
Not only did Cowherd fundamentally get his own example wrong, but he also has an example of a coach returning to coaching after a media career and winning a Super Bowl. That gentleman’s name is Dick Vermeil and he won a Super Bowl with the “Greatest Show on Turf”. Sadly, the issue here is that Cowherd, and many commentators like him, seem to forget the most important lesson of any coaches’ career. In order to win, you must surround yourself with quality assistants.
Vermeil brought in Mike Martz to run his offense and the team hit the ground running. It was on the back of this outstanding offense that the Rams were able to create an identity. More importantly, Vermeil knew what he did not know and relied on Martz to push his team to the limits early on and lead with offensive ingenuity. Similarly, Jon Gruden brought in one of the best young defensive coordinators in the NFL in Paul Guenther to run his defense. He also brought in an offensive coordinator that knows his franchise quarterback, knows Gruden’s schematic language, and has familiarity with new passing concepts like the run-pass option.
Most notably, Gruden got to spend several years picking the brains of the best offensive minds at both college and professional levels of football. There is already talk of how he has changed his play calls from the old school long-winded West Coast, to a more abbreviated modern language that allows for faster huddle breaks and more time at the offensive line reading the defense. Add to all of that, he also has one of the smartest young quarterbacks in the NFL that has been around the game on an advanced level since his older brother was drafted when he was in junior high school.
During his short and nonsensical explanation for the 5-11 record prediction, Cowherd also referred to the lack of running game, Jordy Nelson coming off of an injury, the secondary being a mess, and not liking the linebackers. Firstly, worrying about a running game in the modern NFL is idiotic because it is the easiest position to have a player come out of nowhere and dominate for a team. Secondly, forget Jordy Nelson, did you forget about the trade for Martavis Bryant genius?
Thirdly, it would be a stunning revelation if Cowherd could name a single defensive back on this roster. Of course that ignores the fact the Raiders have a third-year stud who was massively misused in Karl Joseph, Gareon Conley who’s a second-year cornerback with the tools to be dominant, a second-year safety who is a physical freak (Obi Melifonwu) , a free agent cornerback that was one of the fifteen best in the NFL last season, and a quality slot defender in Marcus Gilchrist. Lastly regarding the linebackers, they are much like running backs. All you really need is a few guys who fit the specific need for the specific time and you can make do. That said, Tahir Whitehead is going to lead an underappreciated group to serious success. For the first time in several years, the linebacker skill sets actually match the scheme.
Discussing the scheme also brings up another point. Cowherd claimed that the general manager, Reggie McKenzie, and the head coach do not get along. Did Middlekauff tell you that? If so, I along with the rest of Raider Nation would like to recommend you do some of your own research because Mr. Clean seems to be inhaling some of his own cleaning products. Reality is, no one knows anything about their relationship, but as it stands now Reggie McKenzie seems pretty happy so far.
Here are a couple of fun facts that Cowherd is still overlooking. The Raiders addressed offensive tackle in the draft twice to protect their franchise quarterback. They also added multiple defensive tackles to improve the interior pass rush while also adding one of the most talented pure pass rushers off the end in round three. We also cannot forget the addition of a high-quality cornerback prospect as well.
When it is all said and done Raider fans will be laughing this nonsense off because the team will be at minimum relatively decent. That is not to say that Jon Gruden will instantly lead this team to a Super Bowl. It also does not mean that the Raiders will not have some frustrating moments. However, the Raiders are that team that is being written off early on, for no other reason than it is easy to do with the off-season narrative and nothing else. When in reality if guys like Cowherd were to take a few minutes to actually study what has happened this off-season, they may be singing a different tune.