Gruden has 'a bullseye on my chest,' plenty to prove in Raiders return


Gruden has 'a bullseye on my chest,' plenty to prove in Raiders return

Jon Gruden has star power, maybe more than any other NFL head coach. He can hock Coronas and Hooters wings with ease following a nine-year stint in the broadcast booth and a colorful stretch roaming the sidelines for Oakland and Tampa Bay.

The spotlight will track the silver and black in his return to coaching. Gruden understands it will be part of the Raiders experience now. The magnifying glass will expose beauty and warts alike while Gruden trying to show he’s still got it.

“I know there is a big bullseye on my chest, certainly,” Gruden said. “If the people want to use that as an incentive, then so be it. I worked for Al Davis in 1998. That was pressure. I was 34 years old. I’ve dealt with pressure before. I don’t really feel pressure. I love the excitement and thrill of competing, and I can’t worry about things I can’t control in that regard. I know people will want to step on me and beat me, and that is just the way this league is.”

The Raiders didn’t deal with pressure well last year. They were deemed AFC contenders and a sexy Super Bowl pick over the summer yet ended up 6-10, well known for having a glass jaw. Adversity often won the day, an unattractive attribute Gruden won’t tolerate moving forward.

Expectations are sky high entering Gruden’s first season, and despite the Super Bowl ring on his finger and five division titles in 11 seasons coached, Gruden feels he has plenty to prove in his the Raiders.

“I have not coached since 2008. I haven’t won a game since 2008,” Gruden said. “I haven’t lost any either, so I just want to keep that in perspective. I’ve got to hire a great coaching staff. It’s about the people, it’s about the staff, it’s about the tempo that we establish as a coaching staff. I’ve got a lot to prove and I know that.”

The NFL has changed since Gruden last ran a franchise, with schematic advancements and practice restrictions that make life harder on those teaching the game. Gruden won’t play as much catch-up as you might think. He has stayed involved with the game both as a broadcaster, a consultant and a football nerd who likes studying game tape.

“There are advantages and disadvantages, depending on what website you want to read,” Gruden said. “I will be people who are positive about this and those who don’t like it. I’ve been away for a awhile, but I didn’t close my eyes and shut my ears. I’ve been involved in football. My brother (Jay Gruden) is a head coach. Most of my friends are in coaching, and I go on vacations with my wife to training camp. That’s where I take her. It’s not I’ve been away from the game, but I do have a lot to prove.”

That isn’t just a motivational tactic. Gruden has to show he’s still got it, and justify a massive 10-year, $100 million contract.

“It’s always about the money. If you’re the highest paid quarterback or receiver or safety, the target’s always on your back,” former Raiders defensive back and current ESPN analyst Charles Woodson said. Gruden’s coming back after a long layoff, and everyone knows about the contract he got. They’re asking, ‘Is he worth that much money? That will be a part of the deal. There will be a lot of expectations, even after such a long layoff. I know he’ll be up to the challenge.”

Jon Gruden looking for solid third option behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson


Jon Gruden looking for solid third option behind Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson

ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson are locked into the Raiders starting lineup. They have been both dynamic and steady during training camp.

Receivers behind them on the depth chart haven’t been so strong.

Head coach Jon Gruden wants better from those guys.

“Hopefully someone can step up and will clearly emerge as the third receiver,” Gruden said after practice on Monday. “… We need somebody to step up in that room this week.”

The Raiders will run a game-like practice week heading into Friday’s exhibition against the Green Bay Packers, and regulars will play an extended stretch.

Game performance could lift someone above the rest. The third receiver typically works in the slot, a spot Ryan Switzer manned during the offseason program and early in camp.

Griff Whalen has taken that spot over the last week.

Martavis Bryant is the most talented receiver, maybe in the entire group, but has been slow to absorb the offense and learn multiple receiver positions. Gruden has called him out on that, and has him working primarily with the second and third units.

There will be a competitive battle for receiver jobs, but it’s expected that Bryant and Switzer will end up taking control of snaps behind Cooper and Nelson. That isn’t guaranteed, however. Gruden wants more consistency and production from his wideouts.

“There has been some good and some, I don’t want to say bad, but there have been some ups and downs typical in training camp,” Nelson said. “Sometimes guys come out of the blocks fast and then slow down. Sometimes start slow and then pick it up. The main thing is being consistent.

“Keep reminding them that you can’t let the roller coaster get to you. You’re going to have good days and bad ones. You’re going to run good routes and bad routes. You have to continue to improve and continue to grind. If you do that, you’ll get the results you want.”

The Raiders need more from the slot, which could be an important role with threats on the outside. The competition there is an important one that quarterback Derek Carr is watching closely.

“Yeah, a couple of them are new, fighting for that spot. A couple have been banged up. So, I think we’re all sitting there excited to see what happens,” Carr said. “They’re all, I think, healthy. We’ll see. I think they’re all mentally ready, physically ready. Hopefully come game time, we can sit there and we can evaluate that spot. Because, obviously it’s important.

"When you have guys like Martavis or [Amari Cooper] Coop or Jordy on the outside, you have Jared [Cook] on the inside, someone is hopefully going to get a good matchup on the other side and in the slot, wherever we put them. We have to figure that out and it’ll be exciting. I’m just excited to watch how that goes this week, preparation-wise and then in the game.”

Watch Marshawn Lynch's tee shot that earned him MVP of Klay Thompson's golf tourney


Watch Marshawn Lynch's tee shot that earned him MVP of Klay Thompson's golf tourney

Marshawn Lynch is much better at driving a golf cart than he is at driving a golf ball. 

The Raiders running back, of course, famously took an injury cart for a spin in 2006 after a win when he was at Cal. On Sunday, he took to the links, playing alongside Klay Thompson at the Thompson Family Foundation Golf Tournament in San Francisco.

Thompson gave a look at Lynch's "form" on his Instagram story, and the result was not pretty. 

Courtesy: @klaythompson/Instagram

That won't be considered solid, let alone way too solid, by anybody. Thompson told the Bay Area News Group's Mark Medina that he wants to improve his golf game, and it's probably best if he doesn't turn to Lynch for advice.