If he takes the job, Gruden really only has two years to turn Raiders around

If he takes the job, Gruden really only has two years to turn Raiders around

There have been an even 100 coaching regimes in the National Football League since Jon Gruden was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – nine seasons, many of them dominated by one team and one coach.

Yep. Them, and Him. The Patriots, and The Belichick.

But if Gruden really is the next Oakland Raiders coach – if Mark Davis can pay him enough money and non-voting stock and give him enough power to reassemble what he helped create 15 years ago – he will have a very difficult act to follow.

Himself. Worse, the idealized version of himself.

You see, Gruden at 54 is not the same as Jon Gruden at 45. Nobody is. When he left coaching at the behest of Malcolm Glazer's billionaire shoe, he was expected to be part of the NFL’s retread wheel. He was a hero for having battled Al Davis, then besting him In Super Bowl XXXVII, and his subsequent years in Tampa were essentially glossed over by his expressive face, his gift for public imagery and a largely fruitless search for a quarterback after Brad Johnson.

He found what seemed to be pressure-free bliss in the television booth, playing at quarterback whispering, listening to flirtations from a series of college teams and in general being remembered for his glory days in Oakland, his one Super Bowl and being the current generation’s version of John Madden.

In short, Gruden creates short-term excitement. But that was the reason the Raiders hired Jack Del Rio, and the truth is that, over time, deeds trump words. And the Raiders don’t have a lot of time if the deadline is giving Oakland a going-away parade.

If Gruden is heading back to the trenches, it is for a much different team in fairly bizarre circumstances, working for the son of the father with whom he played swords and shields. He has a quarterback whose confidence in himself and his teammates must be rebuilt (and, in truth, vice versa), a defense in ongoing tatters, a fan base doubly disillusioned and the spotty history of coaches who have sat out a long time between gigs.

Joe Gibbs went 12 years between jobs in Washington and went 30-34 the second time. Dick Vermeil burned himself out, went boothside for 15 years, and then came back to St. Louis for two building years, a Super Bowl in the third, another year off and then four up-and-down seasons in Kansas City. Pete Carroll went back to college for 11 years after flaming out in New York and Boston and then recreated his aura in Seattle. Art Shell was brought back by a desperate Al Davis after 12 years in Los Angeles for one disastrous year in Oakland.

But they don’t represent a large enough sample size to make any conclusions about Gruden The Raider. He would inherit an intriguing but disappointing offense, a defense that has few weapons and much filler, and a front office of his own construction (he’s not coming for less; working in television and being devoted to Mark Davis hasn’t enfeebled him).

And to win Oakland over, he would have to turn all of this around in two years. The move to Las Vegas which wasn’t mentioned much in 2016 when the team won 12 games has moved to the forefront of dissatisfaction after winning six. Raider fans have been largely misused in the 23 years back in the Bay Area, and Gruden is the one agreed-upon bright spot.

But if Gruden does finish the work in three years rather than two, these fans will remember that the victory they thought could be theirs a year ago will belong to someone else, much as the people of Quebec City were wounded by the Stanley Cup won by the Colorado Avalanche the year after they left Canada.

In sum, this lost season was a dagger for Del Rio but maybe a fragmentation grenade for Mark Davis’ hopes of leaving Oakland a hero. If he even cares about that any more.

Raiders 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

Raiders 2018 schedule released: Analysis and predictions

Monday, Sept. 10 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 7:20 p.m.

Jon Gruden goes head-to-head against protégé Sean McVay in primetime, in the season opener and on a Monday Night Football telecast Gruden was on for nine seasons. That's must-see TV. 

Prediction: L.

Sunday, Sept. 16, at Denver, 1:25 p.m.

The Broncos might be the AFC West’s worst team. The Raiders have to make hay a mile up, a chore made easier with an early-season game. They avoid snow this year. 

Prediction: W.

Sunday, Sept. 23, at Miami, 10:00 a.m.

The Raiders beat the Dolphins in Florida last year. It’s hard to say Miami’s much better than they were a year ago. This road win’s attainable, even in the first of four morning kickoffs.

Prediction: W.

Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Cleveland, 1:05 p.m.

The Browns should be better, but that remains a game you’ve got to win. Hue Jackson’s return to Oakland adds intrigue to these proceedings.

Prediction: W.

Sunday, Oct. 7, at L.A. Chargers, 1:05 p.m.

The Raiders will have a huge home-field advantage in Carson, as they do each time they play the Chargers in Southern California. That should help against a formidable opponent that has had trouble staying healthy in recent years.

Prediction: L.

Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Seattle (at London’s Tottenham Stadium), 10:00 a.m.
The Raiders won’t make their combine their London trip with an East Coast game to make things easier from a travel perspective. Gruden doesn’t want to be away from home that long. How the Raiders handle a long flight to the United Kingdom will go a long way in determining a victor.

Prediction: W.


Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Indianapolis, 1:05 p.m.

The Colts still stink, even if Andrew Luck is back healthy and throwing for this one. These are games (especially at home) the Raiders have to win.

Prediction: W.

Thursday, Nov. 1, at 49ers, 5:20 p.m.
A Thursday night game offers plenty of time to get primed in the parking lot. It also guarantees a traffic mess heading into Levi’s Stadium. What could possibly go wrong? This should be a good matchup on the field, with two young quarterbacks leading the charge.

Prediction: L.

Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1:05 p.m.

The Raiders have lost two of their last three home games to the Chargers. They have to handle business at home, even against a talented squad led by Philip Rivers and Joey Bosa.

Prediction: W.

Sunday, Nov. 18, at Arizona, 1:05 p.m.

The Cardinals are mired in a rebuilding mode, well behind the Raiders at this stage.

Prediction: W.

Sunday, Nov. 25, at Baltimore, 10:00 a.m.

Michael Crabtree will be supremely motivated for this one, after the Raiders essentially exchanged him for Jordy Nelson. He’s pretty dangerous in those situations.

Prediction: L.

Sunday, Dec. 2, vs. Kansas City, 1:05 p.m.

The Chiefs will be a great litmus test, to see if the Raiders can handle big-play threats better than they have in recent seasons.

Prediction: L.

Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Pittsburgh, 5:20 p.m.

The Raiders defense better be ready to go against Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and the Steelers scoring machine in the Oakland Coliseum slate’s best matchup. To make matters better, this one's in primetime, on Sunday night. 

Prediction: L.

Sunday, Dec. 16, at Cincinnati, 10:00 a.m.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will go up against the team he helped run recently. Guenther should be an expert on stopping Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense. That will help the Raiders here. 

Prediction: W.

Monday, Dec. 24, vs. Denver, 5:15 p.m.

Marquette King’s coming back to Oakland. He’s looking forward to this one. So is Bruce Irvin. All this plays out on Monday Night Football, the Raiders' fourth primetime game and third at Oakland Coliseum. 

Prediction: W.

Sunday, Dec. 30,at Kansas City, 10:00 a.m.

Arrowhead Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Raiders in recent seasons. Jack Del Rio could never figure how to play well there. Can Jon Gruden buck that trend?

Prediction: L.

An early quarterback run will help Raiders in this NFL Draft

An early quarterback run will help Raiders in this NFL Draft

This NFL Draft should be interesting at the top. Quarterbacks should dominate early proceedings, with teams ready to select as many as four passers in the top 10.

That would suit the Raiders just fine. Derek Carr’s their franchise quarterback. They don’t need another one.

Many other teams do, meaning Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen could all be taken quickly.

“That will really reshape the draft, particularly if there's a run on quarterbacks very, very early in the draft like many of us expect,” NFL Network analyst and former Raiders cornerback Bucky Brooks said in a conference call. “…I think the fascination for me will be what do teams do to put themselves in a position to get a quarterback, what blue chip players find themselves in a bit of a free-fall because these quarterbacks come off the board.”

The Raiders obviously aren’t considering a quarterback at the top. They’ll likely get one of, if not the best players at his position falling farther than they would in a normal year.

We’ve gone over possible selections at No. 10 overall. If you missed it, check it out here.

Quality abounds in that group, with top players at key positions of need. That includes linebacker, defensive tackle and defensive back (and maybe edge rusher) at that spot.

While having four quarterbacks go before the Raiders picks shoves top players down to No. 10, leaving one on the market would make that selection incredibly valuable.

The Raiders could offer that pick to a quarterback starved team willing to trade up to get their passer of the present and future. We’ve outlined candidates for the Raiders should they trade down in the first round, and carry on with extra selections.

The Raiders have 11 as it stands, with one pick in the first four rounds, two in the fifth, four in the sixth and another in the seventh. That’s plenty to package and trade up to land a coveted player in this draft.

The Raiders aim to get the most value from the No. 10 pick, either with an elite draft prospect or the bounty that comes from trading it. One catch: The 49ers could be thinking the same thing at No. 9, a spot earned with a tiebreaking coin flip at the NFL Scouting Combine. They also have similar needs, though they aren’t exactly the same, but should deter the Raiders too much from getting the player or trade they covet.

That’s due to the top-flight quarterbacks they have no intention of drafting.