After long break, can Gruden channel Vermeil, Carroll?

After long break, can Gruden channel Vermeil, Carroll?

Jon Gruden spent nine seasons in ESPN’s employ, working primarily as Monday Night Football’s color analyst.

That chapter is coming to a close. Saturday’s AFC playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans serves as his swan song, before becoming the next Raiders head coach.

He’s expected to sign a 10-year contract and be formally introduced in a Tuesday press conference.

Gruden’s coming back to coaching after a nine-year hiatus. That’s a long time between gigs, but Gruden hasn’t spent that space away sipping Coronas on a white-sand beach. He’s been immersed in NFL football, thanks to a broadcasting job and an ever-present coaching itch.

He’ll re-join a league with different practice policies and ever-evolving schematics, but should hit the ground running.

"Just about every year I talk about coming back to coach,” Gruden told Buccaneers blog in July. “I'm not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball, you know? I'm preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I'm preparing to come back."

A total of five men have returned as head coaches after such a long break. The results have been mixed. The Raiders fell victim to one such decision, hiring Art Shell to coach the 2006 season. That Silver and Black squad, which didn’t have much talent and featured Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks at quarterback, went 2-14.

Pete Carroll has been excellent since returning to the pro ranks, and Dick Vermeil stands as an example of someone who succeeded after returning from the broadcast booth.

Many have tried to lure Gruden back to coaching after cushy jobs in broadcast media – Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy have been other popular targets – but Gruden finally decided to return to an Oakland Raiders team he coached from 1998-2001.

Here’s a list of head coaches in the last 25 years who returned to the position after at least a nine-year break, according to NFL Research, and how they fared:

Pete Carroll (returned in 2010)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: USC head coach
Returned to coach: Seattle
Record after return: 79-48 (still coaching)
Accomplishments after return: Super Bowl XLVIII champion, 2 NFL championships (2013, 2014)

Chan Gailey (returned in 2010)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Miami offensive coordinator (2000-01), Georgia Tech head coach (2002-07), Kansas City offensive coordinator (2008)
Returned to coach: Buffalo
Record after return: 16-32
Accomplishments after return: No division titles, postseason qualifications

Art Shell (returned in 2006)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Kansas City OL coach (1995-96), Atlanta OL coach (1997-2000), NFL senior VP in football operations
Returned to coach: Oakland
Record after return: 2-14
Accomplishments after return: Last place finish in one season

Joe Gibbs (returned in 2004)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Owner of Job Gibbs Racing (NASCAR team)
Returned to coach: Washington
Record after return: 30-34
Accomplishments after return: NFL wild card qualifier (2005, 2007), 1-2 playoff record

Dick Vermeil (returned in 1997)
Years away:
Job away from NFL: Football color analyst for ABC, NBC
Returned to coach: St. Louis (1997-99), Kansas City (2001-2005)
Record after return: 66-62
Accomplishments after return: Super Bowl XXXIV champion (St. Louis), 2003 AFC West champion (Kansas City)

Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season


Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season

The Raiders are taking some time off during the dead period of the NFL offseason. Even early bird Jon Gruden is slapping the snooze button these days, spending some quality time with family before training camp cranks up later this month.

Coaches and players are still finding time for work, sometimes while they’re on vacation. The Raiders want to hit the ground running this preseason, with many motivated to show well in silver and black. That’s especially true for a large class of new Raiders, many of whom hope to silence detractors.

Here are five newcomers with plenty to prove in 2018:

5. CB Rashaan Melvin

Lists like this are normally reserved for guys coming off injuries or down years. Melvin doesn’t fit that mold. The 28-year old had his best year in 2017, often shutting down top receivers as Indy’s top cornerback. He allowed a paltry 60.3 passer rating when targeted, with three picks, 10 passes defensed and just two touchdowns allowed.

Those stats didn’t produce a robust free-agent market. Melvin ended up signing a one-year, $5.5 million deal with Oakland, and is now working to show he’s not a one-year wonder and can stay healthy for 16 games. An ovation-worthy encore would surely earn a long-term, bigger-money deal.

Melvin made his motivation clear on Twitter a few weeks back.

4. WR Jordy Nelson

Nelson had a down year in 2017. It started well, with six touchdowns in the first four games he played. Then all-world Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down, and things hit the skids. He averaged just 9.1 yards per reception, and didn’t score after that early flurry.

That led some to say Nelson lost a step at age 32 he would not recover. The Packers asked him to take a massive pay cut, and ended up releasing him in March. The Raiders swooped in quickly with a two-year deal and plenty of guaranteed money.

Nelson has been praised for his attention to detail and position-group leadership, and will fit into the starting lineup with Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant. He had four straight 1,000-yard seasons prior to last year. His worth won’t be defined by a monster statistical year. Reliability, leadership and red-zone performance will show if Nelson’s still got it.

3. RB Doug Martin

The veteran rusher has had an uneven career. Excellent production has come in spurts, with dominance in 2012 and 2015. The last 1,400-plus yard season was followed by two seasons of 2.9 yards per carry, which led Tampa Bay to cut his this winter.

He met Gruden for lunch at a Florida golf course, and the exchange convinced Gruden the 29-year old was ready to work and prove he had plenty left in the tank. His work was praised during the offseason program, though practice in pads and preseason play will offer stronger evidence of 2018 effectiveness. Showing well in camp could lead to an increased role behind starter Marshawn Lynch. Gruden likes using multiple backs in his offense, and could make steady contributions in the run game.

2. MLB Derrick Johnson

The longtime Kansas City Chief was let go by the team that drafted him in 2005, but it was not the end of his NFL journey. Some thought he’d call it a career at age 35, especially after suffering an Achilles’ tendon tear in Dec. 2016, but he found a new home in Oakland and a strong bond with Gruden. The Raiders need stability in the middle, and Johnson will provide on-field leadership. There’s no doubt about that.

Johnson must prove capable of being a three-down linebacker effective against the run and pass. Marquel Lee is available should the Raiders require a platoon, but Johnson doesn’t want that. The Raiders need his expertise inside at all times.

1. Head coach Jon Gruden

Gruden isn’t a newcomer, but it’s been nearly two decades since he roamed the silver and black sidelines. He hasn’t coached since 2008, but returned to the Raiders in January after nine years in the broadcast booth.

Gruden has said several times he has something to prove to his critics. That might be a self-motivational tool. There aren’t many in the East Bay, where the fan base as rallied behind him and players have loved the intensity and passion he brings to practice and meetings.

Some assume his old school tendencies and his “bringing it back to 1998” comment this offseason implies he is resistant to change or offensive innovation. That’s not the case, not by a long shot. We’ll see lots modern offense Gruden studied as an ESPN broadcaster and in his downtime at his Tampa offices, with new wrinkles unveiled as game plans dictate.

Gruden has made a solid impression in his return to coaching but, as it always is in his line of work, effectiveness will be determined by wins and losses. He won’t be graded off one-year alone, especially without solid roster depth, but Gruden wants to start fast and re-establish Raiders winning ways.

Raiders CB Gareon Conley files countersuit against woman who accused him of rape


Raiders CB Gareon Conley files countersuit against woman who accused him of rape

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley has filed a lawsuit against the woman who accused him of rape in April 2017.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges stemming from an incident in Cleveland less than a month before the 2017 NFL Draft.

Conley deemed the allegations false at the time, and maintained his innocence throughout the process.

His accuser filed a civil suit against Conley on April 6, 2017, seeking $25,000 in damages.

Conley has chosen to file a counter lawsuit, seeking compensation for damage to his reputation, draft stock and endorsement opportunities.

According to court documents obtained by TMZ, he lost an endorsement deal with Nike because of the accusation. He reiterated his innocence in court filings, saying he turned down his accusers advances.

The Ohio State product was considered a top 15 talent heading into the draft, but was ultimately selected No. 24 overall by the Raiders despite the rape accusation.

He missed most of his rookie season with a shin injury that required surgery. He was cleared for full football activity this spring.