Being in business with friends is never easy, especially when things get rough, the lines can get blurred. For two years everyone outside of the Las Vegas Raiders was pleading for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to get the boot. On Sunday night, head coach Jon Gruden finally had to do what was best for his squad in spite of friendship.
When Gruden returned to the Silver and Black he brought in Guenther, his friend, to run the defense. Guenther was coming off solid, not great, work with the Cincinnati Bengals. Originally, Guenther should’ve taken over a defense led by all-world defender, Khalil Mack. This didn’t materialize and Guenther took over a unit that was going to go through a complete rebuild.
Fast forward nearly three years and Guenther’s defense was actually showing regression in 2020. The Raiders defense is giving up 30.1 points a game and ranks 30th in the NFL. Statistically speaking, this current unit will soon be the second-worst in franchise history in said category. Jerry McDonald of the Mercury News added that only the 1962 Raiders who went 2-12 are worse in points given up. In other words, Guenther’s defense was historically bad.
Gruden had to do what was best for the Raiders…
Amidst fan pressure and anger, combined with a spiraling season, Gruden finally fired his friend. Not wanting to say much regarding the matter, Gruden simply referred to Guenther as a great friend and a great coach. Supposedly not for ‘excuses,’ Gruden listed quite a few in defense of Guenther. Listing everything from injuries, player movement, and the pandemic itself as tough hurdles. Maybe someone should remind Gruden that 31 other teams have been dealing with all of this and many teams have actually thrived.
Myself, I won’t make excuses for Guenther here. By that same token, let’s not mince words, he didn’t have the right tools either. Other than Trayvon Mullen and Maxx Crosby, there’s zero ‘elite’ defensive players and only a handful of ones that would be considered ‘good’ on other teams. This falls mostly on Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock for not addressing the defensive holes these past two offseasons. More importantly, it shows a systematic failure to develop talent.
A brief look ahead…
Whether the Raiders’ defense can bounce back under Rod Marinelli these final games is a huge question. What if Gruden had realized that something wasn’t working with the defense before the season and made a change beforehand? Obviously, that’s just speculation as we’ll never know the answer. When you step back and look at the big picture, Guenther was not put into a position to succeed, terrible playcalling or not. For now, it’s onto Thursday night for the Silver and Black. Gruden will have the offseason to reflect on what went wrong with Guenther, and perhaps, he can look past his ‘friendships’ to turn around a horrible Raiders defense.
You May Also Like: Twitter Reacts To Crushing Raiders’ Week 14 Loss vs Colts
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal