Raiders

Down Goes Former Raiders Coach Jon Gruden, Now What?

Allow me to be candid. Since Jon Gruden made his triumphant return to the sidelines, and by extension, the front office of the Raiders organization in 2018, I have been counting down the days until his eventual exit. 

An exit that I always assumed would be met with far less admiration and hope than he’d been met with when team owner Mark Davis effectively handed the Super Bowl Champion coach the keys to the Silver and Black Kingdom. Gruden is perfect for Las Vegas, but he shouldn’t be controlling a profitable football franchise; he should be a Sin City showman. 

Ever seen Smokin’ Aces? Gruden has always given an unshaken resemblance to one Buddy “Aces” Israel, played by Jeremy Piven. A Las Vegas magician that gets close with the Mob, but instead of enjoying the little juice he has, Israel decides to use that connection to muscle his way into crime, becoming an enemy to law and the underworld all at once. When the walls are finally closing in on Buddy, he delivers a poignant statement to his right-hand man Ivy after it’s become obvious that he’s turning everyone in to the federal government to save himself.

Monday evening saw Gruden’s house of cards fall in one of the least-expected ways possible. The exposure of numerous emails to former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen that included language sure to offend most minority groups has brought an early end to Gruden’s second Raiders tenure. 

Chucky’s departure will be beaten into the ground (as it should). The former Skechers frontman will be vilified (as he should). Moving forward, let’s see why the Raiders are better off without the Kaiser of QB Camp.  

Gruden was destined to leave the Raiders in NFL Purgatory

Gruden was viewed by some as a relic of NFL yesteryear transported to the present day and given autonomous power. Yes, Gruden won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It could also be said that Super Bowl was won on the back of a team assembled by the previous staff (and aided by a Raiders team that forgot to adjust their playbook to the guy that helped create it). Some may also say Gruden then proceeded to run the Bucs into complete mediocrity. From the looks of the things, the Raiders weren’t trending in a less familiar direction either.

Gruden would coach the Bucs for six more seasons, eclipsing a .500 record three times and going 0-2 in postseason play. Much like his recent tenure in Las Vegas, once given the power he craved, the success became far less frequent than the second-half flameouts Raider fans are familiar with.

Gruden has already traded away franchise cornerstones, squandered many of the picks that they received in return, and thrown numerous front office staff and players under the bus in his pursuit of martyrdom. When things go wrong, it isn’t because Gruden bungled the bounty he was given. It is because the sum of the parts that he assembled failed him. Fortunately for Raider Nation, he won’t get the other six cracks he would have had at another 16th overall draft pick.

There are good coaching candidates available…

Hot Take: The worst thing to happen to the Raiders in the last decade was going 12-4 in 2016.

Why? It caused Mark Davis to reward Jack Del Rio with a contract extension at a time when some quality names became available for head coaching jobs. With Gruden’s abrupt exit, the Raiders are back in search of a head coach. However, this isn’t the same franchise with the worn-out stadium, poor training facility, and minimal cap room. The Raiders can now flaunt a brand new stadium and cap flexibility to go along with a cupboard of talent that is far from barren. Even if the next hire decides they are not sold on Sleeve Jesus Derek Carr, they can cut ties with no financial repercussions. 

Names like Joe Brady, Eric Beiniemy, Lincoln Riley, and Kellen Moore have already been pitched across Raiders Twitter. This always occurs when a team has an opening. But now, the Raiders should be desirable to those very names.

Gruden never deserved to be a representation of the Raiders

The Raiders didn’t falsely create the image of a haven for misfits. I latched onto the Raiders as a young fan because, as an outsider, I was naturally attracted to the aura presented far before I knew anything about the lengths Al Davis went to for equality, not just for his players, but his staff as well.

Al didn’t make Art Shell the first Black head coach or Tom Flores the second Latino head coach as a PR stunt. He didn’t elevate Amy Trask to gain kudos among his peers. He never assumed someone to be less capable due to their gender or the color of their skin. To this day, that is a true rarity in the NFL.

The emails that Gruden sent; were done in private. Nevertheless, they reflected how he truly felt about people of color and about women breaking barriers in the NFL. They showed a man that would use harmful language to demean league officials, even the commissioner himself. Gruden did all this with a level of arrogance that isn’t reserved to just him but countless others who may sit in even higher positions than he does.

Allowing Gruden to retain his job after his comments regarding NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith’s lips is an entirely different discussion that I, a Black man, am already exhausted at the idea of having. Everything the Raiders stand for hung in the balance as time ticked by on Monday night.

The cord had to be cut. If not, Al’s legacy would’ve been desecrated by the lack of action by his bloodline.

*Top Photo: Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

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