Raiders

How Mark Davis' relentless pursuit eventually got Gruden

How Mark Davis' relentless pursuit eventually got Gruden

ALAMEDA – Raiders owner Mark Davis methodically went through his opening statement, thanking everyone who helped Jon Gruden become Raiders head coach.

Decorum, however, only lasted so long. Emotions eventually won out.

“I want to thank the Gruden family from the bottom of my heart for making my dream come true,” Davis said Tuesday afternoon. “Raider Nation, this is a big F’n deal.”

Jon Gruden is back. And yeah, it’s a big freaking deal to Davis especially. This was a moment six years in the making, the conclusion of a quest started shortly after Mark took control following owner Al Davis’ death.

He wanted Gruden to be his first coaching hire in 2012. Gruden wasn’t ready. He tried again in 2015, but Gruden wasn’t ready. This time around, the former Raiders coach who got away – okay, he was shipped off in a trade with Tampa Bay – was ready to return. There were several conversations between those requests, most of which were counseling sessions on how to get the Raiders right.

That’s initially why Mark Davis made a road trip to Tampa near midseason. The Raiders were staying in Sarasota, Fla., between games at Buffalo and Miami, and Davis went to seek counsel on how to fix a once-promising season gone awry.

“At that point in time I just wanted to know if he could help me figure out how to fix this franchise,” Davis told a group of reporters, with quotes from The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. "Because I felt that there was a lot of regression, obviously, on the offensive side of the ball. The defense hadn't started clicking at that point in time, so I just wanted to know if he had some input for me.

“And that might be the first time I started to get the inkling that, hey, maybe this time he might be the one to come back and fix it rather than helping me try to figure it out.”

Davis blazed a nice trail between bays, from San Francisco to Tampa (with a stop in Dallas). He even found a favorite hotel and a quality Laundromat over an estimated 15 trips back and forth. Davis, it seems, was relentless in an ever-so-slow play.

He was prepared to retain Jack Del Rio another year, albeit with some staff renovations, after a disastrous 6-10 campaign.

When Gruden was ultimately ready, Davis fired Del Rio and swooped. Would he have done so following a successful season? “Off the top of my head, probably yes.” Davis hasn’t thought about that much. It wasn’t a realistic option, not with Gruden seemingly content as ESPN’s top color analyst. Then Gruden showed his hand a bit during that early November trip to Tampa.

“I started to believe it because it was a different conversation than we'd had in the past,” Davis said. “You know, in the past he wanted to do it, wanted to do it, but he wasn't ready … but (this time) I just felt it.”

Davis now has his man in Gruden, and wants this pact to work in the short and long term.

The owner opened his pocketbook and presented an unprecedented 10-year deal reportedly worth $100 million. He allowed Gruden to extend longer and worthwhile offers to assistants he saw fit. He offered job security and elements of personnel control. He’ll add to the personnel department around trusted general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Mark Davis didn’t know Gruden much during the coach’s first Raiders tenure. Gruden dealt with Al Davis back then, with Mark not involved in Raiders operations.

“But over the last six years, I've really gotten to know Jon and his family,” Mark Davis said. “And that I think was the important part of it. Getting to know the family and the family believing in the Raiders, believing in me, believing in (president) Marc Badain, (director of football administration) Tom Delaney...we went down there with computers and everything else to help try to convince him that the Raiders organization is where he should be.”

Gruden gave the pitch strong consideration in November, and things started moving fast just before Christmas. The Raiders played a Monday Night Football game Dec. 25 in Philadelphia, and Davis met Gruden before kickoff against the Eagles.

“I felt pretty confident that he was all-in,” Davis said. “And that's the term that we were using in our discussions and everything, are you all-in? And I never wavered from all-in. And this time he didn't waver, either.”

Raiders announce Cable's return, hire 13 assistant coaches

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AP

Raiders announce Cable's return, hire 13 assistant coaches

Jon Gruden put some respected assistants on “red alert,” for a time when he would return to coaching. Count Paul Guenther, Greg Olson and Rich Bisaccia among those he wanted as top lieutenants.

They became defensive, offensive and special teams coordinator, respectively, formally announced last week during Gruden’s introductory press conference.

Those guys went to work hiring a full staff. They interview several during a busy week, and formally announced 13 hires on Thursday morning.

Most names had been reported previously, with former Raiders head coach Tom Cable as the marquee name returning to lead the offensive line.

Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac was a new name and a good get. He spent the last nine years coaching the position in Green Bay, and was Carolina defensive coordinator from 2003-08. He has worked with Gruden before, with Philadelphia from 1995-97.

Trgovac has been particularly effective in Green Bay. Since he started running that defensive line, the Packers fourth in sacks and fifth in rushing touchdowns allowed.

Trgovac, senior defensive assisstance Jim O'Neill and receivers coach Edgar Bennett have experience as a coordinator. O'Neill was 49ers and Cleveland Brown defensive coordinator. Bennett was Packers offensive coordinator the pass three seasons, though he did not call plays.

The Raiders snagged Derrick Ansley from the University of Alabama to coach defensive backs, and Guenther brought David Lippincott from Cincinnati to coach linebackers.

The Raiders hired former NFL scout Dave Razzano has director of football research, and he’ll compile statistical analysis from game film on the Raiders and their opponenets.

The Raiders retained Travis Smith (quality control – defense) and Nick Holz (quality control – offense), who have survived two regime changes.

Here’s a complete list of 13 assistant coach hires announced by the team. A quarterback coach is not among them. Olson said Wednesday the Raiders are still contemplating whether to hire one. That position isn’t vital, considering how involved Olson and Gruden will be with signal callers and Derek Carr in particular.

Coach                              Title

Ansley, Derrick                       Defensive Backs

Bennett, Edgar                        Wide Receivers

Berbenich, Tim                        Quality Control – Offense

Cable, Tom                              Offensive Line

Holz, Nick                               Quality Control – Offense

Lippincott, David                    Linebackers

O’Neil, Jim                              Senior Defensive Assistant

Razzano, Dave                        Director of Football Research

Singleton, Jemal                      Running Backs

Smith, Frank                           Tight Ends

Smith, Travis                           Quality Control – Defense

Storer, Byron                          Assistant Special Teams

Trgovac, Mike                        Defensive Line

Here’s some background on each coach, provided by Raiders media services: 

Ansley: Joins the Raiders for his first NFL season after spending the past two years coaching defensive backs at the University of Alabama, helping the Crimson Tide win the 2018 BCS National Championship…Served as the cornerbacks coach at the University of Kentucky from 2013-14 before being promoted to the secondary coach in 2015…Spent the 2012 season as the defensive backs coach at the University of Tennessee…Served as a graduate assistant at Alabama from 2010-11 and helped the team win the 2011 BCS National Championship…Began his collegiate coaching career at Huntingdon College working with defensive backs from 2005-09.

Bennett: Enters his first season with the Raiders after spending the past 13 on the Green Bay Packers’ coaching staff…Served three seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2015-17…Spent three seasons (2011-14) as Green Bay’s wide receivers coach…Entered the coaching ranks in 2005 as the Packers’ running backs coach, where he served six seasons from 2005-10…Before becoming a coach, worked four years in the Packers’ front office, serving as the teams’ director of player development form 2001-04…Played eight seasons in the NFL as a running back for the Packers and Chicago Bears from 1992-1999, totaling 3,992 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 1,115 carries. 

Berbenich: Enters his 15th season as an NFL coach, his first with the Raiders…Spent the past five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts…Served the last two years as the team’s offensive assistant/assistant quarterbacks coach…Spent the 2015 season as the team’s defensive assistant…Joined the Colts in 2013 as an offensive assistant, a role he served for two years…Was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for six years (2006-11), working the first three under Head Coach Jon Gruden…Joined the staff as an offensive quality control coach in 2006, before being promoted to assistant running backs coach in 2008 and assistant wide receivers coach in 2009…Entered the NFL with the New York Jets in 2000 as an intern in the team’s operations department and was hired on full-time in 2002…Joined the coaching ranks in 2003 as an offensive assistant and spent the 2005 season as New York’s offensive assistant/quality control coach.

Cable: Begins his second stint with the Raiders, bringing over 30 years of coaching experience to the post…Spent the last seven seasons (2011-17) as the Seattle Seahawks’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach, helping the team win Super Bowl XLVIII…Originally joined the Raiders in 2007 as the team’s offensive line coach, before serving as the interim head coach for the final 12 games of 2008 and head coach from 2009-10…Entered the NFL coaching ranks in 2006 as the offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons…From 2004-05, was the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at UCLA…Served as the University of Idaho’s head coach from 2000-03…Served as the University of Colorado’s offensive coordinator/offensive line coach from 1998-99…Spent six seasons (1992-97) as the University of California’s offensive line coach…Spent one season in 1991 as UNLV’s offensive line coach after coaching the defensive line at Cal State Fullerton for one year in 1990…Began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Idaho (1987-88) and San Diego State (1989).

Holz: Enters seventh season with the Raiders…Spent 2017 as the team’s assistant wide receivers coach, after two seasons as the Silver and Black’s quality control – offense coach from 2015-16 and three seasons as the team’s offensive assistant from 2012-14, working closely with the team’s wide receivers…Prior to joining Raiders, spent four years (2008-11) at Stanford University as assistant quarterbacks coach…Began his coaching career at the University of Nebraska as an offensive quality control coach in 2007.

Lippincott: Joins the Raiders for his 11th NFL season, having spent the previous 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008-17…Was the assistant linebackers/quality control coach for six seasons in Cincinnati from 2012-17…Spent the 2011 season as the team’s defensive quality control coach…Joined the Bengals in 2008 as a coaching assistant, a role he served in for three seasons…Coached at the University of Richmond for three seasons from 2005-07, serving as the assistant defensive line coach from 2005-06 and the safeties coach in 2007…Spent two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota from 2003-04…Began his coaching career at Bluffton University as the team’s defensive line coach from 2000-02.

O’Neil: Enters his first season with the Raiders and ninth year as an NFL coach…Brings three years of experience as an NFL defensive coordinator to the post…Served as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator for the 2016 season…Spent two seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 2014-15…Coached linebackers for the Buffalo Bills for one year in 2013…Spent four years with the New York Jets (2009-12), serving as the defensive backs/quality control coach in 2009 before being promoted to assistant defensive backs coach for the 2010-12 seasons…Served as the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at Towson University in 2005…Spent two years at Northwestern University from 2003-04, serving as a graduate assistant/defensive backs coach…Coached at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 as the team’s assistant offensive line coach…Began his coaching career at the University at Albany in 2001 as the assistant offensive line/tight ends coach.

Razzano: Enters his first season with the Raiders after spending the previous six years as an area scout with the Indianapolis Colts, focusing on the western United States and assisting on special assignments for both pro and college scouting…Holds 25 years of scouting experience, which also includes stints with the San Francisco 49ers (1988-92), St. Louis Rams (1992-2006) and Arizona Cardinals (2006-09).

Singleton: Enters his first season with the Raiders and third NFL coaching season…Spent the last two seasons as the Indianapolis Colts’ running backs coach…Served as the special teams coordinator/running backs coach at the University of Arkansas in 2015…Coached running backs at Oklahoma State for four seasons from 2011-14…Spent nine years over two stints at the Air Force Academy…Served as the run game coordinator/running backs coach from 2007-10 after spending the 2006 season as the running backs coach…Was a varsity assistant from 2003-05 after getting his start in 2000 as a prep assistant.

Frank Smith: Joins the Raiders after spending the past three seasons (2015-17) as the tight ends coach of the Chicago Bears…Brings 13 years of coaching experience, including the last eight within the NFL ranks…Began his NFL coaching career with the New Orleans Saints (2010-14) as an offensive assistant/offensive line coach…Prior to joining NFL ranks, Smith served as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Butler University from 2007-09…Started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Miami (Ohio) University from 2004-05.

Travis Smith: Enters his seventh season with the Raiders, after previously serving as outside linebackers in 2017 and quality control - defense from 2015-16…Served as the team’s defensive assistant from 2012-14, working closely with both the linebackers and defensive line…Joined Raiders after spending three years in the college ranks as offensive technical intern at the University of Colorado in 2011 and tight ends/defensive line at Santa Monica Junior College in 2010…Began coaching career as an undergraduate assistant at Cal Poly in 2009. 

Storer: Enters his first season with the Raiders and his fifth year coaching in the NFL…Begins his second stint on assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s staff…Served as the San Diego Chargers’ assistant linebackers coach in 2013 after spending one season as the team’s assistant special teams coach in 2012…Spent the 2010-11 seasons as the assistant special teams coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…Played three seasons in the NFL for Buccaneers from 2007-09, appearing in 16 games.

Trgovac: Enters his first season with the Raiders after spending the past nine years (2009-17) as the defensive line coach of the Green Bay Packers…Joined the Panthers in 2002 as the defensive line coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator from 2003-08…Served as the defensive line coach for the Redskins from 2000-01…Served his first stint with the Packers in 1999 as the defensive line coach…Began his NFL coaching career with the Eagles from 1995-98, working on the same coaching staff as Head Coach Jon Gruden for the first three seasons…Prior to coaching in the NFL, spent 11 seasons coaching defensive linemen at the college level with Notre Dame (1992-94), Colorado State (1990-91), Navy (1989), Ball State (1986-88), Michigan (1984-85).

Raiders media services contributed to this report

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

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USATSI

Raiders DC Paul Guenther talks Khalil Mack, Gareon Conley and more

Paul Guenther hasn’t been Raiders defensive coordinator long. He has been in Alameda about a week now, interviewing potential position coaches and pouring over last year’s game tape.

He has some initial impressions on the group that struggled at the start and improved throughout the year. Generally speaking, however, Guenther sees talent on the roster.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” Guenther said Wednesday in a conference call. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there are a lot of good pieces here for a foundation, for sure.”

Guenther’s system, where it came from and why he brought it to Oakland is a story for another day. Thursday morning, to be precise, so stay tuned for that.

Guenther’s early evaluation of key Raiders, however, supports his statement about a strong foundation. He is most excited, as you’d expect, about working with edge rusher Khalil Mack and several others in silver and black.

Here’s what Guenther said about…

-- DE KHALIL MACK: “Having a talent like that and ability of a guy like that, certainly you want to make it the centerpiece of the defense. We have to continue to develop our younger players to bring those guys up to speed and add people as we go through the draft and free agency. He’s a guy that you can really build a foundation through and around. He’s an exciting guy to be able to coach for sure.”

-- CB GAREON CONLEY: “He was my favorite corner coming out. His ability, he’s smooth in the pedal, he’s a good press corner, which we love to have. I’m excited to work with him.”

-- S OBI MELIFONWU: “Obi is a big guy that when you turn on the tape, you’re like, ‘Man, who is this son of a gun?’ He’s playing half the field, he’s down in the box playing the run.”

-- LB NAVORRO BOWMAN: (an impending free agent): “NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really. The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”