OAKLAND -- Raiders coach Jon Gruden hadn’t won a football game in a long, long time. His last NFL victory came on Nov. 30, 2008, when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost their last four games to miss the playoffs, then let Gruden go.
Gruden climbed into the broadcast booth after that, spending nine years as ESPN's Monday Night Football color analyst.
He had to wait longer than he would’ve like to bag a win in his return to coaching with the Raiders, but he finally got a ‘W’ with Sunday’s 45-42 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Gruden was smiling ear to ear after this one, clearly relieved after starting the season with three consecutive losses.
He was asked about his first win in roughly a decade, and he clearly enjoyed it.
“It feels like my first win in 100 years,” Gruden said. “It’s great to be back. I think our fans for hanging in there with us. There were a lot of ups and downs, but to get that (game-winning) field goal from our third-string kicker and our backup long snapper. I’ve never been so nervous on a 29-yard field goal in my life.”
[RATTO: Raiders dodged a premature end]
Amari Cooper saw that firsthand.
“I was looking right at him,” the Raiders wide receiver said. “He didn’t even look up to see if we made the field goal. He heard the crowd, and that was his acknowledgement.”
It wasn’t just the new battery making Gruden nervous. It was the weight of high expectations yet unrealized in his return to the Raiders, and all the heat he has taken from the Khalil Mack trade during the three-game losing streak.
The Raiders finally finished off a win, after blowing late leads the first three weeks. The Silver and Black had a fourth-quarter lead in this one and lost it, but they found a way to squeak out a victory with some late-game heroics from quarterback Derek Carr, tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
“We hung in there and kept playing,” Gruden said. “That says a lot about our football character. A lot of the veteran players we brought in, delivered in spirit today. I think the attitude has a lot to do with the leadership we have on our team.”