I am generally a pretty optimistic person, but this will now be my second consecutive pessimistic article. Last week, I wrote about Mike McCarthy’s coaching incompetency, and this week I will be explaining why Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden is incompetent.
The rumors of Jon Gruden’s returning to the sidelines after 10 years away from the game started swirling long before any actual reports came out. I was skeptical to believe them, and then the Raiders fired then-head coach Jack Del Rio, I knew that Gruden was going to be the next man. When he was officially hired, “I was like, yeah, he’ll be pretty good, but that contract (10 years, $100 million) looks pretty sketchy.” And then I thought about how he will probably be way behind everyone else because he’s been out for a decade, and he might have some issues with identifying player talent, value, etc., which I will discuss shortly.
First of all, we’ve got to talk about their draft. They brought in a pretty nice pass rusher, Arden Key from LSU, who was going to fit in nicely with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. Their first round pick, however, is where I have an issue. The Raiders selected Kolton Miller, offensive tackle from UCLA. You’ll hear people preach “Talent over need” during draft season, and the Raiders needed an offensive tackle. I’m not going to get into who was maybe a better talent, but you get the picture.
Another thing that was going on during draft time was the Khalil Mack contract dispute. Oakland knew that he wanted a new contract: a contract that would make him the highest paid defensive player in history. The Raiders talked with him and/or his representatives during this time, but couldn’t get a contract reached. There were plenty of talented edge rushers left on the board when the Raiders were picking, so that could’ve filled a great need with a highly talented player, like Harold Landry.
Now, we get into June. Khalil Mack, the bona fide best player on the Raiders, was still not reporting to the Raiders’ facilities due to his contract impasse.
Now, we are in August. Training camp has started; no Khalil Mack.
Now, it is September 1. The Raiders have just traded Khalil Mack and a second round pick to the Chicago Bears for a pair of first round picks and a third round pick. Chicago immediately signs Mack to a 6-year, $141 million contract extension. It is still unclear if Oakland either could not pay Mack or just didn’t think he was worth the money he was asking for. But I can’t help but think that Gruden’s $100 million contract had something to do with this.
If we look at some of the NFL’s most successful franchises, do you think they would do something like this? Do you think that Robert Kraft would ever even consider giving Bill Belichick a monster contract like that? No. Not a chance.
And we haven’t even gotten to the actual coaching part yet.
In the past, I’ve defended rookie head coaches and rookie quarterbacks, but it’s different in this case. Yes, Gruden’s been out of the league for a decade, but he has several years of head coaching under his belt. On top of that, Gruden was immediately given an established star quarterback to work with. And if he hadn’t traded Mack, his defense may even be good enough to win some games.
I have never seen anyone run a team into the ground more than Gruden has with the Raiders. They are so bad that in Oakland’s game in London, Derek Carr was crying in the middle of the game because of his frustration. This is all Gruden’s fault, and under normal circumstances, he should have been fired by now.
But the Raiders are trapped. They’ve trapped themselves in Gruden’s contract. They gave him $100 million while they are paying for a brand new stadium in Las Vegas. If they can’t pay Khalil Mack, they obviously can’t afford to say sayonara to Gruden and just hand him a $90 million check after this season.
So, the Raiders are buried in their own mistake, and the can’t dig themselves out for several years yet.
Like it or not, Raiders fans, but there is a high possibility that you will be miserable for at least the next several years.