No one likes rebuilds. But that is exactly what Oakland Raider fans got when Mark Davis finally lured Jon Gruden back to the team with a ten-year $100 million contract. Davis gave Gruden full control of the team, and it was quickly torn down in preparation to build it back up to fulfill Gruden’s vision of what a championship team looks like. A demolition is always quick. But a construction project takes time. At this point, Raider Nation has no choice but to get behind Gruden’s rebuild – because, with that contract, he isn’t going anywhere.
Like it or Not, Raider Fans Must be Patient with Jon Gruden’s Vision
It’s Time to Admit that the 2016 Season Was a Mirage
Fans always want to be optimistic about their team. Many thought that Gruden could come in and quickly get the team back to its 2016 winning ways. After the franchise experienced its first winning season in over a decade, it was a tough pill to swallow that 2016 was more the aberration after a 6-10 finish in 2017.
Sure the Raiders won many games with exciting, last-minute comebacks. But forgotten in those wins is the fact that many of the wins were just that – comebacks. A lot of them were miracle plays and blown coverages. It started with the team going for two in Week 1 rather than tying and going to overtime. Many forget that the Chargers missed a last-second field goal that would have taken the game into overtime.
And then there were a few games where blown coverages and miracle plays against a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens turned what should have been losses into wins. Gruden wouldn’t say it publicly, but it was known by insiders that he believed the team was closer to 6-10 than 12-4. Knowing the team wasn’t ready to compete, he came in knowing he was going to dismantle it and rebuild it again.
Rebuilds Don’t Happen Overnight
Much is made about how much the team has already turned over. On the offensive side, the only starters remaining from the start of last season are Derek Carr, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson (when he gets back from injury). On defense, only Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph remain. And more changes are expected to come.
Gruden didn’t sign a ten-year deal for nothing. Some may not have faith that Gruden can turn things around, but there if there is one thing that fans should believe, it is that Gruden has a plan. He didn’t come in from the comfort of the Monday Night Football booth to sit and collect a paycheck. Gruden loves football, and he really believes that he has what it takes to bring the players and personnel to create a winning football team.
His first year was a feeling out phase. He had to maintain a little of the status quo. This is why he kept General Manager Reggie McKenzie around. He’d been out of the game for too long, and completely cleaning house would not have been smart. But it was never meant to last. Rumors were that he and McKenzie had two different draft boards. There is still debate on who actually had the final say during that draft.
Year two he finally got his guy in Mike Mayock to start truly molding the team in his image. The two’s picks are already making an impact, with almost the entire draft class getting significant playing time. But the roster is still full of holes. One draft isn’t going to solve this. And neither is two. Moving to Vegas sounds like a good season to kick things off, but unfortunately, this team still won’t be ready to compete.
Have to Sell Tickets
Another question people ask then is why would a rebuilding team bring in an expensive wide receiver like Antonio Brown. Sure, it didn’t end up working out, but the move gave fans hope that there was a chance Oakland would be able to compete in its final season in the city.
And that is exactly what the organization wants everyone to think. No one wants to straight out admit they are tanking (except for the Miami Dolphins). It’s bad for sales. People aren’t going to buy tickets to go see a team that doesn’t care about winning.
So there has to be some kind of semblance of competition. This is where Brown comes in. Brown didn’t work, but Gruden can still work his magic. This is where he uses that personality that got him into the booth to sweet talk the fans into still giving money to an organization that knows full well they will not be competitive for at least a few years.
Odds Stacked Against Them
This year, only do the Raiders go up against some of the top divisions in the NFL, but their travel miles would get to even the best NFL team. The NFL did the team no favors. It is almost fair to wonder if Gruden and Davis even had a say in making the team’s schedule so difficult – might as well try to go for a better draft pick.
The Monday Night Football game to start the year was as much a mirage as the 2016 season. Oakland went against a bad team and had a ton of stuff go their way. From getting pressure on the quarterback to completing deep passes, Raider fans had plenty to hype them up and make them believe that this could be a good season.
And then reality hit Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs when the Silver and Black went against a real NFL team. Things got worse when they hit their first away game against yet another competitor. And it won’t get any better in Indianapolis, against a Colts team that is out to prove they don’t need Andrew Luck. Immediately after that, the Raiders head to London, where historically they play poorly. And they take on Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears swarming defense.
After a bye, their travels continue against the currently 3-0 Green Bay Packers and move right onto the high-octane Houston Texans. When they return home, over a month from now, they host the better than average Detroit Lions. This team could be 1-7 by the time they make it to prime time against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a long season. But, it is a season that is all going according to Gruden’s plan.