Jon Gruden thanks Raiders fans, apologizes for losing Oakland finale

Jon Gruden thanks Raiders fans, apologizes for losing Oakland finale

OAKLAND -- While Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars might have just been a Week 15 battle to most Raiders players, it certainly meant something more to Jon Gruden. 

Unlike most of his players, Gruden has a real attachment to Oakland. He has talked at length about his love for Raider Nation and how much the city, organization and even the Coliseum have meant to him not only on a professional level, but on a personal one, as well. Gruden wanted to win Sunday's finale at Oakland Coliseum more than anything, and to think otherwise would be to disregard everything he's said about what the city and those who live and die with every snap the Raiders play mean to him. 

Following the Raiders' stunning 20-16 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, the coach opened his press conference with a message to the fans. Both a thank you for years of dedication and an apology for blowing a 13-point second-half lead. 

"I'd like to say we could have sent the Raiders fans off with a lot better finish than that," Gruden said. "I think, most importantly, before we talk about the game, I'd like to thank the fans. I'd like to thank the city of Oakland for supporting the Raiders and being faithful in all kinds of seasons. I'll miss them. I love them and I'm sorry about the outcome today, but I think that's something that needs to be said. An exclamation point.

"I really apologize that we weren't able to deliver a victory."

For three quarters Sunday, it looked like Gruden and the Raiders would say goodbye to Oakland with a win over the hapless Jaguars. They held a 16-3 lead at the half and the Jaguars only had two first downs midway through the third quarter. They led 16-13 with under six minutes to play. 

Then, the wheels came off. 

The Raiders got the ball with 5:15 left and went to work draining the clock. They went 38 yards in nine plays and drained the Jaguars of all their timeouts. On third-and-11 Carr threw a strike to Tyrell Williams that would have allowed the Raiders to get a first down and kneel out the clock. But the ball banged off his hands and onto the turf, forcing the Raiders to attempt a field goal to push the lead to six.

Daniel Carlson hooked his 50-yard attempt wide left. After a running into the kicker penalty gave the Raiders one more chance to get three, Carlson again hooked his kick left and the Jaguars got the ball on their own 35-yard line. 

Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew drove them 65 yards in seven plays, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley to stun the Raiders 20-16 and send those in attendance into a fury reserved for moments such as this, 

[RELATED: Carr has special bond with Oakland, Coliseum

The loss left fans and players both shellshocked. 

Nachos and bottles were hurled onto the field as the team exited after one final loss at the Coliseum. The Raiders now have lost four games in a row. They've gone from a 6-4 playoff-hopeful to a team that needs to win its final two games to finish at .500. 

There will be no magical last playoff run in Oakland. Gruden couldn't even deliver a storybook ending against a Jags team that looked like it had quit in the first half. 

Instead, his team stepped on a rake over and over again, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of everyone in attendance. 

Gruden undoubtedly wishes the outcome was different. Both for the season and the game. The Oakland Raiders -- who will cease to exist in two weeks -- and their fans, deserved better. A city losing its team deserves a final party, like the one the Raiders thought they were giving them during a possible farewell win over the Broncos to end last season.

The inability to deliver in this final game, with so many generations of Raiders fans praying for one last Oakland win, clearly hit Gruden hard, whether he cares to admit it or not.

"It's not really the result today, it's the results of the Raiders over the years," Gruden said to close his press conference. "It's the Raiders, it's the appreciation, the loyalty that these fans I think have had for the Raiders. We're going to miss them. The relationship is hopefully never going to end. 

"It was sad walking in here today. It's going to be sad walking out of here for the last time and it's a lot to wrap your arms around, but we love our fans, we love the city of Oakland. We thank them and we'll certainly miss them."

Then, he nodded his head and walked out of the press room at the Coliseum -- which is used as a batting cage during baseball season -- one final time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. 

How ex-Raiders star Nnamdi Asomugha transitioned from NFL to Broadway


How ex-Raiders star Nnamdi Asomugha transitioned from NFL to Broadway

Nnamdi Asomugha finds himself under a new set of bright lights. The former Raiders star cornerback, who ended his 11-year NFL career with the 49ers, now finds himself on Broadway

"I started the decade at the Pro Bowl, and I ended the decade on Broadway," Asomugha said in a recent interview with CBS' Dana Jacobson, which aired Friday. "I was like, 'This was really surreal.' This is not a dream that I ever had. And now, this is so clearly what I should be doing." 

Asomugha, now 38 years old, first dabbled in the entertainment business while still playing in the NFL. Towards the end of his career, he started working as a part-time NFL analyst when Jacobson worked at ESPN. He also did a commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods in 2009, and the director gave him words of encouragement regarding his acting skills. 

The three-time Pro Bowler said he started thinking about his post-playing career long before he was done playing football. He saw early on just how quickly your career can end. 

"You better start thinking about that long before you finish your career," Asomugha said. "I mean, I started noticing really my first year in the NFL that you can go down with an injury, your career can be over. You can get cut within moments. And then what are you gonna do?" 

The Cal product soon turned his focus to acting and producing. He said he "was a rookie again" and took acting classes.

Asomugha now has a long list of credits when looking at his IMDB page. The former football star was the executive producer for Netflix's "Beasts of No Nation" in 2015, and he starred in Amazon's "Crown Heights" in 2017.

But it was the Broadway stage where Asomugha found his true calling. He felt the same kind of rush he did on the football field when he made his Broadway debut in the award-winning "A Soldier's Play" earlier in February.

"They announce you, everyone's cheering," Asomugha recalled. "I kind of ran on to the stage and began our work. And I remember at that moment just being like, 'This is where I'm supposed to be.' ... That's football, isn't it? It's live. You don't get a second take, you better get it right.

"I developed that muscle so much, I'm at my best when I'm in the fire."

[RELATED: Why Raiders signing Brady could make sense for both sides]

Asomugha finished his football career after playing three games for the 49ers in 2013. He then retired as a Raider in December of that same year. And though he has found his new calling, he admits he misses the game that first brought him so much joy.

"That was a great time," Asomugha said. "Football is definitely my first love. Now finding this world in entertainment through acting and producing -- I didn't think I would love something as much as I did, but I'm so grateful now that I do."

How Raiders' 2019 draft class is laying bedrock for sustained success

How Raiders' 2019 draft class is laying bedrock for sustained success

The Raiders assembled quite a collection of talent during last year’s NFL draft. Everyone knows that by now.

First-round safety Johnathan Abram, however, doesn’t want you to forget about those who came directly after.

“Don’t forget Alec Ingold. He’s the man,” Abram said on the Raiders Talk Podcast. “And don’t sleep on A.J. Cole, either. That guy can punt. He’s the real deal.”

Abram’s right. The Raiders even got significant contributions from undrafted players in 2019. Ingold’s the long-term solution at fullback, and Cole’s a specialist off to a good start.

The 2019 rookie class was highlighted by rookie of the year candidates in feature running back Josh Jacobs and 10-sack sensation/defensive end Maxx Crosby. Both guys were runners-up for the offensive and defensive awards, making the Raiders one of two teams in the last 15 years with top-two finishes in both, per the Associated Press' Josh Dubow.

This group showed great depth. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen excelled after assuming a starter’s role following the Gareon Conley trade. Hunter Renfrow proved a quality slot receiver all season but found great form and chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr at its end.

Tight end Foster Moreau was a significant contributor as a run blocker and red-zone receiving target.

The Raiders' rookie class was awesome, despite No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell not quite living up to his draft slot in where he moved around the defensive line and got really sick before midseason. Abram was a non-factor in 2019 after missing 15 games with a shoulder injury.

Members of this Raiders rookie class believe they’re the bedrock of the Raiders rebuild, and 2019 ended with the arrow pointing up. They understand that fact, even if it goes unspoken.

“We talk about it here and there, but it’s more of something we just know,” Crosby said. “We know what we’re here for and how good we can be. Me and John and Josh and Cle and everybody else, we’re all close. For us, we know what Gruden brought us here to do. We’re grinding away and preparing to get in the playoffs and go win some games and eventually win a Super Bowl.”

[RELATED: Raiders safety Abram learned 'valuable lessons' after injury]

The Raiders draft class is recognized among last year’s best, if not right at the top. The group was first in sacks and total yards from scrimmage. They were first in receptions and rushing yards.

It has growth potential, with high ceilings and improvement all around. Ferrell vowed to return a completely different player. Abram will be back and healthy in 2020.

And while offseason rankings don’t mean much, Moreau took umbrage with an NFL Media list placing the Raiders rookie class at No. 7 in the league.

That could fuel fire down the line as the Raiders try to build a roster capable of sustained success. The group had high hopes, with expectations even higher with a season’s experience in hand. It doesn’t just fall on the higher picks. The entire group sees good days ahead.

“That was the best part of it,” Abram said. “No matter what round we came in, we put all that behind us the day we showed up at the facility. We were all hand-selected and brought here for a purpose. We just have to get the job done.”