After a period of fanfare and national attention early in the season, the wheels haven’t quite fallen off for the Las Vegas Raiders but they’re teetering.
The loss to the Atlanta Falcons was reminiscent of last year’s loss to the New York Jets. The Raiders received a beatdown from a team that shouldn’t have been on the same level. Just like last year, they will try to correct last year’s mistakes and come out with a win. The bigger issue with last year’s crash and possibly now is that head coach Jon Gruden’s always in charge of these second-half meltdowns.
Following the disappointing 2017 season, fans loved Gruden’s hiring and went wild for it. The team has made progress been in ‘Chucky’s’ second run but there’s an uneasy feeling when it comes to second-half and season-ending collapses. This has been a recurring team with both stints as Raiders coach as well as his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A look back at Gruden 1.0
In both 1998 and 1999, the Raiders had back-to-back 6-2 starts and seemed ready to make a playoff run. Unfortunately, they ended the season 2-6 and 8-8 and missed the playoffs in both years
In 2001, Gruden’s last season with the Raiders, the team was 10-3 and in contention for a first-round bye. Alas, they lost the last three games to go to 10-6 and we know what happened in New England. Last season in Oakland, 2019, the team started the season 6-4, and qualifying to the playoffs seemed feasible. They ended the year 1-5 to end at 7-9 and miss the playoffs. That’s not great and definitely unnerving, and this wasn’t simply a Raiders issue as his struggles continued in Tampa Bay.
How did Gruden fare In Tampa before his Raiders return?
His tenure in Tampa began with, well the Super Bowl demolition job of the Raiders, so it started amazing. His time with the ‘Bucs’ ended fittingly enough with a loss to the Raiders in 2008, but let’s look at the second-half drops from those teams as well.
In 2003, Gruden began 4-3 and closed at 3-6 to end 7-9. In 2004, despite a bad start, the Buccaneers had a 35-3 victory of the San Francisco 49ers put them at 4-6. It could’ve been the start of a run for the playoffs. Instead, they closed out at 1-5, and finished 5-11.
The 2007 ‘Bucs’ had an 8-4 run, possibly looking at a deep run. That ended quickly as they ended with a stretch of 1-3 to end the year at 9-7 then getting dropped wildcard weekend. The following season, which would be Gruden’s last season in Tampa, saw them jump out to a 9-3 record and in the midst of a heated NFC South race. Many were speaking about the noise they could make in the playoffs. However, they finished on a four-game losing streak to finish 9-7. That final nail in the coffin came against the Raiders which led to his firing.
There’s a love affair with Gruden
Now, fans and the media love Gruden. He fits the Raiders mold with the language, the scowl, arguing with the officials, and going crazy during bad calls. Gruden is what fans love, but we cannot overlook the second-half failures that he’s had consistently. It’s something we don’t often bring up when we talk about the Silver and Black and that has to change.
In his first 11 years of coaching, he has had some big drop-offs down the stretch. In fact, the grand total is seven times for said drop-offs. It’s something that should be noticed more and if history repeats itself, owner Mark Davis needs to notice. Yes, Gruden signed a 10-year deal, but another second-half failure is too much to ignore. Perhaps, the answer for the Raiders’ woes lie elsewhere.
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*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images