What’s Up with Jon Gruden’s Raiders

After losses in Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3, somebody has to ask it: What’s up with the Oakland Raiders? And is it all Jon Gruden’s fault?

Admittedly, his reunion with the Raiders hasn’t gotten off to the best start, what with the trade of one of their most popular players, a handful of losses, and well, more in-house drama that we’ve just learned about…

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Gruden’s “Inner Circle” is Causing Issues

The way Gruden handles his personnel has caused a divide in Oakland Raiders offices. Apparently, he has his own staff who advise him when it comes to players. Hey, he’s a big name so he comes with a big posse, we get it. But Gruden basically brought in a whole new staff.

There’s Dave Razzano – former NFL scout and author of a few awful hot takes on Twitter – who is Director of Football Research and Gruden’s right-hand man. The new head coach also has his own draft board, pro board, and people who help him make cut-ups.

But the thing is, the old staff is still there too – the guys under General Manager Reggie McKenzie. That includes respected scouts who built this Raiders team from nothing into a playoff team. And they don’t feel like Gruden is listening to them.

Word on the street is that Gruden has been choosing his own people and listening to his personal inner circle in order to make decisions and judge talent. That includes decisions like signing veteran free agents at the expense of previous draft picks and making the unpopular trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears in exchange for a couple of first-round picks. Not only was Mack the best player the Raiders had, but he was also the best guy in the locker room for lifting the team up. And he was consistent. So that decision was polarizing to say the least. (At least we got some good jokes out of it?)

Supposedly, there’s no animosity between McKenzie’s folks and Gruden’s inner circle of confidants, assistants, and interns. The two groups come together for meetings so everyone gets to weigh in, but this awkward situation has got experts questioning whether McKenzie will look for a new job after this season. Yeah, things are getting a littttle dysfunctional in Oakland.

What is Gruden doing exactly?

We’re not sure.

Back when Gruden was coaching the Oakland Raiders back in the day, the team traded him to the Bucs for draft picks and dolla bills. In his first season at Tampa Bay, he beat the Raiders in the 2003 Super Bowl (talk about vindication). Now his latest coaching contract includes a no-trade clause so they can’t send him away again. What a clever guy!

Many experts say Gruden should apologize for trading pass rusher Khalil Mack or go ahead and fire McKenzie who’s being a good sport about things and hanging in there because he’s got a contract with the team. But is Gruden just making this season all about himself? What are his personal motives here? Will he last four more years? And what’ll happen when the Raiders move to Vegas? Heck, what’s gonna happen this season?

Or are we being too anti-Gruden? Other experts say, hey, it’s his vision. And when you pay somebody $10 million for 10 years, you’ve gotta back that vision.

Or could it be that Gruden knows he’ll get paid $10 million either way, and he’s super out of touch after 10 years away from the sidelines? Why is he selecting older, slower veterans to help carry the ball? Some are suggesting he’s assembling the perfect offense… for 2008.

Things are a little different when you’re calling plays on the field versus running commentary as a TV sports personality. But anyway…

What About the Players?

Losing Pro-Bowler Khalil Mack hurt an already weak Oakland defense, possibly the worst in the AFC West. In 2017, the Raiders were only 23rd in overall defense… and that’s with Mack. They rank 31st in the league in sacks. And their linebackers are, uh, questionable – ESPN ranks them runners-up to the worst in the NFL. So yeah, we guess it could be worse? Sorry, Raider Nation.

Quarterback Derek Carr doesn’t throw deep enough. How else do you explain completing 29 of 32 passes on the road against a tough Denver defense… and still losing? During that Week 2 game, Carr completed 288 yards but fewer than 10 yards per completion. Carr’s longest play of the first two weeks was 45 yards from the line of scrimmage, most of which was carried by tight end Jared Cook. (And that was the Raiders’ first play of the season.) He finally beat that record in Week 3, throwing 61- and 66-yard passes. Is Carr choosing safer routes or abiding by Gruden’s conservative coaching?

Against the Rams, the Raiders had a decent first half but struggled to finish drives as they were outscored 23 to 0 in the second half. The team racked up a ton of penalties and the defense barely touched the opposing quarterback, getting only one sack. (But hey, at least tight end Jared Cook looked good.) They finally succumbed after the Rams’ Marcus Peters returned Carr’s third interception of the night for a final touchdown and embarrassing score of 33-13, spoiling Gruden’s return.

Against the Broncos, they fared slightly better, leading the game up until the final seconds. Carr didn’t throw any interceptions, but the Raiders failed to score in the fourth quarter as the Broncos made a furious comeback. After a last-second field goal left them trailing Denver 19-20, Raiders fans began bashing Gruden on social media with F-bombs galore.

Oakland really needed a win against the Dolphins in Week 3 and it looked like they were going to get it… right up until the fourth quarter. Carr threw for 345 yards, but Xavien Howard snagged two interceptions deep in Miami territory. Jordy Nelson racked up 173 yards – most of them in the first quarter – with six catches, but a couple of trick plays by the Dolphins put the nail in the coffin for the Raiders. Ah well, maybe next week?

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So… is this mediocre Raiders team all Jon Gruden’s fault?