Raiders

A Questionable Decision: Raiders Fire Brentson Buckner

In a surprising move, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden fired defensive line coach Brentson Buckner on Tuesday afternoon. A man that joined the team’s coaching staff in 2019 is now out the door in favor of former Cowboys defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

The Raiders offseason was experiencing calm and quiet seas when a sudden bolt of lightning struck the coaching staff with Buckner being the casualty, who is 48 years old and was largely responsible for a top 10 rush defense in 2019. The replacement? Rod Marinelli, a castaway from the recent Dallas coaching staff implosion. He will have a slight demotion from the Cowboys defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, to strictly Las Vegas defensive line coach. Jon Gruden reunites with his former assistant coach that was a part of his Super Bowl Championship run in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Yet again, Gruden has stated one thing but his actions dictate otherwise.

This is eerily similar to two situations that occurred in 2018. Gruden stated that he would not trade wide receiver Amari Cooper:

Gruden, 8 days later, determined Cooper was not worthy of a future with the Raiders based off his inconsistency in his tenure with the Silver and Black. 2018 was also the year of the infamous Khalil Mack trade after the coach said that the defensive end would stay with the team. Fast forward to 2019, when the Raiders defense, without Mack, had the same amount of sacks as the Bears with 32. Addition by subtraction proved that defensive line production can still occur without him. In addition, Oakland had a top 10 rushing defense, unlike the Bears, thanks to the meticulous work of Brenston Buckner, the Raider defense made significant leaps in the following areas.

  • 13 sacks in 2018 to 32 in 2019
  • From 29th ranked rush defense in 2018, to 8th in 2019.

Considering the youth and lack of premier talent that Buckner was working with, that is quite the productive turnaround in one season. Unlike Cooper and Mack, Buckner showed up and produced on a consistent basis. The justification for his departure is inexplicable.

Related: A bust? Year in Review: Clelin Ferrell

So Why?

This begs the question, why part ways with Buckner? Clearly, it wasn’t a scarcity of production from his unit. In fact, without the efforts of their defensive line, it is quite possible that the Raiders would have repeated as 32nd ranked defense again as they did in 2018. You’d be hard pressed to find any coach to come in and replicate that type of production increase in one season with a specific unit anywhere. Ultimately, today was a shock for Buckner.

Similar to a breakup, Buckner was told by Gruden “I need to make a change, it was nothing you did.” A questionable display of the ‘Good Old Boy’ system is in effect with the Raiders going into 2020 with Marinelli’s arrival.

Is Marinelli an upgrade for the Raiders?

The 70 year old veteran coach does bring a plethora of value with 23 years of NFL defensive coaching experience. In 2019, this is what Rod Marinelli accomplished with the Dallas Cowboys front:

  1. Sacks – Cowboys 37| Raiders 32
  2. QB Pressure % – Cowboys 23.4 |Raiders 19.9

Considering the Cowboys had veteran talents such as Demarcus Lawrence, Michael Bennett and Robert Quinn, a point of concern is whether Marinelli can replicate that type of production in Las Vegas, where the youth movement is in full effect and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. Their development, will be critical to the revitalization of the defense moving forward. While Maxx Crosby is talented, he does not bring the knowledge, experience and savvy of the veteran rushers that he has familiarity with in Dallas. Another cause for concern, is his age. At 70 years old, a legitimate question is just how much longer he is going to continue coaching. The last thing the Raiders need is a coach retiring after one year with the team as they try to create a consistent winning culture with continuity in Las Vegas. There is also speculation that his arrival is a preemptive supplanting move for current defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. In reality, it is hard to fathom that the front office is realistically envisioning a long term future with the long time defensive mind. If Guenther were to be relieved of his duties, Marinelli is a potential upgrade as a defensive coordinator, but ultimately, he is not a long term fixture that the Las Vegas Raiders can realistically build around.

Forging Ahead

At the end of the day, Buckner did a fantastic job with the 2019 Raiders given the circumstances. He was an assistant coach that both players and fans loved, not just for his energy, but his accountability.

Marinelli, is a great defensive mind in his own right and Raider Nation should be excited for his acquisition. However, the future in Las Vegas won’t be built around a 70 year old coach. It will be built around the youth that is currently on the defensive line and throughout the roster. Buckner is a man of accountability, character, effort, production and players were impacted by his sudden departure.

You don’t easily replace a man like Buckner in your organization. As the team transitions to the desert, he would have been a incredible influence for young players to confide in a wild Las Vegas scene. It is a cause for concern that Gruden’s former associates are blurring his vision of the future.

Raider Nation thanks you, Brentson Buckner, for your commitment to excellence and representing the Raiders to the highest degree, and wish you the best in your future endeavors.

You may also like: Moving on or moving up? Vol. 5 Offensive Line

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Dustin Ward

What an a-hole Jon Gruden is for doing this to Buckner simply because he is better freinds with Rod. Buckner did a fantastic job in 2019. Brens9n established relationships with our rookies & after MadMaxx & Clelin make friends & trust Buckner, he gets fired. Which will put a bad taste in the mouth of our young talent. Replacing him with a guy who is 70 years old? Do you honestly believe Clelin Ferrell & Max Crosby will have a better relationship with a 70 year old Rod Merrenelli or with a younger more eneregetic & more up to date… Read more »

Anonymous

Marinellis D was ranked 11th in points allowed last season. 6th in 2018. Granted he’s coming in as DL coach, but he’s had a top 10 D everywhere he has been. Buckner seemed like a cool coach, but Gruden is bringing in his future DC. Throwing PG a bone to try and build his resume for a HC gig if the D can perform in 2020. Either way, I can’t imagine Marinelli not being the DC after next season. Which bodes we’ll for the Raiders D.

Anonymous

He probably did “plan” on keeping the coaching staff intact. That was before RM was available. Just like players, if a person comes available that makes your team better, you take advantage. Unfortunately, it’s a zero-sum game when it comes to cap space, roster #’s and coaching staff positions. Here we go, trying to foment discontent within the ranks because Gruden makes an obviously smart move (on paper, anyway). Complaining about replacing an inexperienced D-line coach for a proven veteran with HC and DC experience for the same position? Talk about irrational. Racism? Some people, that’s all they see. It’s… Read more »

b smith

I knew someone would bring up race… get a grip.

Anonymous

It’s a steppingstone to DC

Joe

You don’t take a successful coach, replace him and claim you “needed to make room.“ Using that logic, Hall of Fame coaches would be fired so that a high school friend of the owner could have a job.

Anonymous

Ok so everyone says its not about racism ok cool.. Now lets just take a real look at the facts not racism…the man improved that D-line by a HUGE margin compared to the year before mind you he did it with rookies second year young players & average at best vets meanwhile under gunther’s system two years in a row the defense as a whole still under achieved. So why not let Buckner be the one to benefit from his hard work & who definitely EARNED the right to hold on to his job & send gunther walking & make… Read more »

Billy Roberts

I’ve been a Raider fans my whole life I’m trusting Mr Gruden could do it I live in Ohio and take a lot of shit. I would like to see them return to dominance and strengthen intimidation

Anonymous

It has nothing to do with racism . We need to have a solid team ! We want to show the NFL that moving is not going to change a thing . We are going to be a contender for the championship . New England ,KC ,Denver all the teams in the NFL will get a big surprise when they play us !

Anonymous

Makes perfect sense. Maybe more to it than we know? Hopefully he lands in a good place.

Anonymous

Greg Olsen needs to go! Carr was better with Bill Musgrave calling plays. If he didn’t break his leg, that could’ve been the year.

Eric

Bad call Gruden players adapted to a young coach and their stats are not that far off. The pace of the game has changed from years ago. Your worry should of been the DC and the blown coverages from play calls. Stop changing portions that don’t need to be fixed and get some veterans in there that we could have picked up and had a chance to atleast get a wild card this season. Would of been nice. Fire a young coach for one who maybe has a year left already in his 70s isn’t a great pick for the… Read more »

Sam Cole

The D as a whole is Sad at best… Between the scheme and lack of adjustments is a Joke!! The Raiders have strong players playing out of position ie. Joyner, Tah… To let go the One coach on the D that had a pulse is insane!! He took a young line and average vets and had them excel. Offensively their no better in terms of scheme and adjust. Just better personnel fits (except at wr). Buckner being fired is friends over function. I really hope we fustrated for nothing and they keep the ship moving forward!!

RON C BARAN

BS! Move. Buckner had them going in the right direction. Look what he did with Crosby.

Billy Roberts

Yes it seems you may have a point there as unfortunate as it is

Anonymous

Im starting to feel like gruden is a fuckin racist who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing! The man clearly made the defensive line waaayyyy better! Why not fire the garbage defensive coordinator gunther?! Guess gruden think he’s still coaching in the 90’s trying to reunite his old staff #its2020

Anonymous

Im starting to feel like gruden is a fuckin racist who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing!

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