Raiders

What's standing in the way of Raiders' quest for Jon Gruden reunion

What's standing in the way of Raiders' quest for Jon Gruden reunion

The Raiders are officially in the midst of a coaching search.

Well, sort of. The technical term both applies and doesn’t, considering they need a new head coach after firing Jack Del Rio Sunday yet have already locked in on their guy.

Jon Gruden is expected to become the next head coach, though the Raiders weren’t thrilled that became common knowledge before the regular-season finale. Owner Mark Davis captained the ship and the circle was kept tight – even trusted confidant and general manager Reggie McKenzie was kept in the dark -- but obviously expanded as a Gruden-Raiders reunion moved farther down the road.

ESPN broke news about Gruden, an ESPN employee, being tempted by a blockbuster offer to coach the team he ran from 1998-2001. Al Davis traded him to Tampa Bay, and he led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory over the Raiders.

It’s become clear that Raiders owner Mark Davis has a plan to lock Gruden down. That plan, it seems, is going to work.

There are a few hurdles to clear before that happens.

The Raiders have to interview at least one minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule. They’d like to interview a few more options as well, though it might be tough getting good candidates through the door with Gruden as the real target.

Gruden is also scheduled to call Saturday’s AFC playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans for ESPN, and will reportedly honor that commitment.

That’ll likely push a formal announcement into next week. 

The Raiders took care of one piece of business on Monday, a source said, telling Del Rio’s assistants they can start looking for other jobs and get out of their contract should they find one.

Gruden has reached out to possible assistants in recent weeks, with reports streaming in about possible additions to the staff.

Gruden will obviously construct his own coaching staff, but personnel people could be added to McKenzie’s department. McKenzie’s influence will be dulled once Gruden’s on board. It’s uncertain whether Gruden will have complete control over personnel decisions, but he’ll have significant say and influence at the least, maybe more that McKenzie. We’ll have to wait and see on that front.

The Raiders said in a statement announcing Del Rio’s departure they won’t have further comment until an announcement is made.

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

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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.”

Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

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Raiders OC believes Raiders will 'grow as Derek Carr grows'

Quarterback Derek Carr’s stage is set for a giant step forward.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson thinks it happened the moment Jon Gruden became Raiders head coach, though not solely due to the mentor and his proven offensive system. It’s also the 10-year contract formally bringing him back. There’s no telling whether Gruden mans his post a full decade, but an extended stretch is guaranteed.

That in itself, Olson, says, is invaluable to a passer entering his fifth season with a fourth head coach and third offensive scheme.

“Probably more so than anything,” Olson said, “this guy has to get some continuity.”

Gruden will provide that, with Olson a link to Carr’s past. Olson was Raiders offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and guided Carr’s rookie campaign. Quarterback and coordinator worked well together a 3-13 season where the Fresno State alum started every game.

They’ll reunite under Gruden and stick together this time. Olson, after all, signed a four-year deal that’s double the industry standard.

“Derek is going to be in a system now,” Olson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “He’s going to be coached by a head coach that’s going to be the play caller. That’s the first time Derek will have an offensive head coach that has a quarterback background and will be hands on with him on a day-to-day basis. I just see that growth curve skyrocketing because of that.”

Carr’s trajectory went straight up from his rookie season with Olson through the next two years – he was a legit MVP candidate in 2016 -- though it markedly dipped during a disappointing 6-10 campaign.

Gruden and Olson are generally charged with fixing an offense with talent but little production last year, though their primary objective remains more specific.

Get Carr back on track.

“Everything we do in this building is going to be about the development of Derek Carr,” Olson said. “The way we script practices, the way we are doing drills, everything that we do is all about the development of the quarterback. That will really speed the development of Derek. More so than anything is that there’s somebody here in place that’s going to make everything that we do and that everyone in the building understand that we grow as Derek Carr grows.”

Olson knows first-hand about Carr’s work ethic and acumen. He has seen athleticism, passing accuracy and a quick release turn football smarts into production. He told Gruden all that following the 2014 season, and believes Carr’s presence was an attraction to take the Raiders job.

“We drafted this guy to be that franchise quarterback," Olson said. "We feel like he has the potential to be that guy that can be here and play for 10 more years. It’s up to us to try and get that out of him. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that that happens."