Raiders

Jon Gruden, Raiders played Antonio Brown helmet situation perfectly

Jon Gruden, Raiders played Antonio Brown helmet situation perfectly

Antonio Brown formally lost his grievance to wear an outdated helmet on Monday and didn’t retire over it.

What an absolute shock.

A Hall-of-Fame talent still at the peak of his powers decided to collect roughly $30 million guaranteed from the Raiders, and more likely $50 million over the life of a three-year contract.

Can’t believe it.

The Raiders' superstar receiver fought hard for something he wanted but moved right along after he didn’t get it, exactly as his employer anticipated (and this publication and others reported on Friday).

Get right out of town.

Monday’s news, of the grievance result and Brown’s reaction to it, brought a logical conclusion to this odd story.

The details leading up to this moment, however, as chronicled in great detail by NFL Network’s Mike Silver, caused an understandable stir on Friday.

Brown’s unpredictable nature, and an ESPN report that he threatened retirement over the helmet issue, heightened the attention surrounding Brown’s absence from Raiders camp. All that, combined with an unusual foot issue that has kept him out of practice, might’ve been more distraction than even head coach Jon Gruden thought was coming when he said he expected plenty of drama from No. 84.

But…if Gruden was frustrated by all the reports and the distance Brown reportedly went, per Silver, to continue using the Schutt Air Advantage helmet, he kept that inside.

Gruden played it cool and played it perfectly on Saturday night, offering Brown full support on the helmet issue while absolving him of wrong doing as it relates to his odd foot injury.

"There have been a lot of reports out there. I can't say I agree with all of them, certainly,” Gruden said after the Raiders’ 14-3 preseason victory over the L.A. Rams. “But I support this guy. I think that's what needs to be said. I don't know what anybody's writing or what anybody thinks, but this foot injury wasn't his fault. It was a total accident. It really wasn't his fault, and it's a serious injury. I know some people are smarting at it, but it's really not a laughing matter. The guy is hurt. He's innocent. He didn't do anything wrong.

"And the helmet thing is a personal matter to him, He has a strong feeling about what's he worn on his head, and we're supporting him. We understand the league's position as well, so we're in a tough spot. We hope Antonio is back here soon because he's exciting to be around. I've got some plays for him and I hope I can start calling them."

[RELATED: Will AB adjust to helmet like Brady?]

Gruden backed his guy, creating a welcome environment for Brown to return and do what he does best. A coach’s job is to maximize his players’ potential. Part of that goal is on-field schematics and development. The other part is psychological, pushing the right buttons to get the best out of a particular player. He did exactly that in this case.

Superstar management can be tricky. Those guys need to feel valued and appreciated, even beyond the respect shown through massive paychecks. Brown's recent past suggests he can be fickle, and showing unconditional support when fans and pundits were shaking their heads was the proper tact. Gruden needs Brown to be his gold-jacket best in 2019 and drive this offense forward. Supporting his guy should help acheive that goal. 

While Gruden said he anticipates drama from Brown, he also expects Brown to work extremely hard in practice and perform on game day. That time is coming, after Brown’s feet heal fully and he can finally get back to work for a coach who had his back. 

Raiders' chance to end playoff drought would improve with NFL proposal

Raiders' chance to end playoff drought would improve with NFL proposal

More isn't always better, but in the Raiders' case, it nearly would have been.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL reportedly is considering a proposal that would expand the postseason structure to add a seventh playoff team to each conference.

If the proposal passes, only one team per conference would receive a first-round bye in the playoffs, as opposed to the top-two seeds under the current format. With the No. 1 seed getting a bye, the No. 2 seed would face the No. 7 seed, No. 3 would face No. 6 and No. 4 would face No. 5 in the wild-card round, with the higher seed playing at home.

Had the proposal been in effect this past season, the Raiders still would have missed out on the postseason, but just barely. At 7-9, Jon Gruden's club finished a full game behind the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers, who ultimately would have been the seventh team and final team in the AFC playoffs.

Adding to the excruciating factor, one-third of the Raiders' losses came by four or fewer points, including two in the final three weeks of the regular season. If they end up winning those nailbiters, that might have been enough to sneak into the postseason under the new proposed format. On the other hand, Pittsburgh lost its final three games of the season, including two by one score, so the Steelers could make the same argument.

[RELATED: Report: Growing sense teams could trade for Raiders QB Carr]

What's done is done, however, and the Raiders now have missed out on the playoffs three years running. Adding another playoff spot automatically would increase their chances of ending that drought in their first season in Las Vegas, but then again, it also would the playoff chances for the other 14 teams in the AFC.

NFL rumors: Teams sense opportunity to trade for Raiders QB Derek Carr

NFL rumors: Teams sense opportunity to trade for Raiders QB Derek Carr

The Raiders have a new home and soon will occupy a brand-new stadium. Might they also have a new quarterback under center for the first snap of the 2020 season?

There has been rampant speculation that Las Vegas might be interested in trading for legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or possibly trading up to acquire one of the top QB prospects in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Should either situation play out, but especially the former, it almost would certainly mean Derek Carr would be moved elsewhere.

Carr carries a $21.5 million cap hit for the 2020 season, and it would be almost impossible to field a competitive team with that much salary allocated to a backup.

Coach Jon Gruden gave a lukewarm endorsement of the quarterback following the Raiders' final season in Oakland, but both he and general manager Mike Mayock have maintained they'll look at every possible way to upgrade the roster for the team's first season in Sin City. Whether or not that means replacing Carr is anyone's guess, but if that's the route they choose to go, it sounds as if they might not have trouble finding a trade partner.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Vincent Bonsignore reported Tuesday night that momentum is building towards teams inquiring with the Raiders about potentially trading for Carr.

Carr has three more seasons left on his current contract, so any team that would acquire him would either need to have ample cap space or send some significant salary back to the Raiders. He'll turn 29 years old next month, and one could argue he's just entering his prime after posting career-bests in passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating last season.

[RELATED: Carr unfazed by questions on Raiders future, brother says]

If Carr isn't the Raiders' QB for the first season in Vegas, they better be confident they've found a better fit for the organization moving forward.