The Oakland Raiders’ Week 1 debut probably did not go the way head coach Jon Gruden envisioned.
Or maybe in some ways it did? Those expecting a hostile press conference filled with player immolations and “Grudenisms” were left sorely lacking. Instead, the press conferences of both Gruden and Derek Carr seemed almost upbeat, as if the offensive collapse of the second half hadn’t happened. Which isn’t to say that they denied mistakes, but rather that this wasn’t far from what they themselves expected.
Consider for a moment that a 13-10 lead was generally considered a total win for the Silver and Black. They were certainly not expected to win, let alone be leading going into the half, but there they were. So when the bottom fell out and, maybe even when Carr threw that second pick, Gruden had already accepted that the Raiders weren’t ready. Not that they weren’t ready for the season, the first half speaks to that but instead that they couldn’t roll with the big dogs.
Yes, the elephant in the room is shouting that Khalil Mack could have been the difference. It’s fair to say anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that is missing the point, which is why Gruden maybe didn’t feel that way. There is no world in which Gruden watched Sunday nights game without a little regret, but Mack doesn’t play offense. Mack’s job is to rush the passer, scoring points is a bonus. In fact, the defense played pretty well on Monday and had the offense helped out, they likely would have kept it close. However, each turnover was a back breaker coming in the red zone, on a must-score drive, and one in garbage time.
Whatever Gruden’s game is, he knows he’ll have the better part of a decade to do it. At minimum he’s got three years in the new stadium, whenever they finally do make it there. Carr probably realizes it too which may bring on a whole new kind of pressure, the kind that makes him see ghosts in the pocket. His contract may be richer than his coaches but his rope isn’t nearly as long.
The one thing working in Carr’s favor is that Gruden can be more patient than almost any coach if he wants to. Few coaches in American professional sports world get as much time as he does at the moment. For Carr, and Amari Cooper for that matter, the Gruden game will likely be marked by how quickly they develop on Gruden’s calendar. Only He, and maybe Mark Davis, know just how much patience will go into this iteration of the Raiders.