Jon Gruden's arrival brings a wake-up call to Derek Carr


Jon Gruden's arrival brings a wake-up call to Derek Carr

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t had continuity in his young career. The Raiders have fired four offensive coordinators since drafting him in 2014. They have blown through two offensive systems.

Now Jon Gruden’s in town, ready to install a third. It’s going to be complicated. Gruden is going to be demanding, and at times abrasive.

Carr has the work ethic required to excel in Gruden’s system, armed with a thicker skin that you might think. Even so, Carr must kick it up a notch.

Rich Gannon should know. The former Raiders quarterback worked with Gruden for three seasons.

“I don’t know if anyone can match Jon’s intensity,” Gannon said Tuesday. “I don’t know if that’s possible, but you must put the work in and be prepared. You must have a passion for the game. I don’t care how hard Derek has worked before, he’s going to have to change his work habits to fit in.”

This isn’t another story about whether Carr can handle working with Gruden. He can, and will.

But it won’t be easy. Gruden is notoriously hard on quarterbacks, and said Carr’s job description will expand.

“We’re going to ask a lot more from Derek Carr at the line of scrimmage,” Gruden said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re going to put him in a position to do some of the things we did in the past with his recognition of defenses, his ability to communicate and showcase his talented arm.

“We have to finish hiring the coaching staff first. I think we can improve the roster a little bit around him. I think the offense will demand more from him, which will really improve him (as a quarterback).”

Let’s unpack that quote in three stages.

No. 1: Carr has been asked to do a lot at the line of scrimmage before. That was true even as a rookie, when he was working under coordinator Greg Olson. He’ll reunite with Olson – quarterback and veteran coach had a great working relationship -- who returns as Raiders offensive coordinator.

Gruden said he’ll call plays. He’ll be hands-on tutoring his 26-year old quarterback still entering his prime. Make no mistake: Carr was an attraction for Gruden to take this job, and believes Carr’s best football lies ahead.

“He has great arm talent, he’s athletic, he’s got natural leadership skills, he’s young, he’s in his prime, he’s healthy now,” Gruden said during his introductory press conference. “He has, I think, been in a lot of different systems, played for a number of different quarterbacks. There hasn’t been a lot of continuity around him that way. I think he has a huge upside. I think with Greg Olson and the system we are going to put in place is going to demand a lot from him and I think that is what is going to unlock the greatness in him but very, very excited to have him as our quarterback.”

No. 2: Gruden is still hiring a coaching staff. Olson is in place, and Gannon won't join him as quarterbacks coach. The former Raiders quarterback and NFL MVP announced that fact Wednesday on a paid apprearance with 95.7-FM in the Bay Area. Gannon said the lifestyle change going from the CBS broadcast booth to a position coach would be too big to make a major career switch. 

"It was something I thought about," Gannon said on 95.7-FM, "but I just couldn't pull the trigger." 

Gannon said he'll be involved in a minimal capacity with Carr and Gruden's Raiders. 

"I want to help him understand Jon Gruden," Gannon said. "Jon can be very intense. Jon has the ability to talior himself to who the players are. Derek isn't someone who needs special treatment."

The Raiders already have quarterbacks covered, even without Gannon there every day. Gruden will be invovled with Carr. Olson will be primarily responsible for Carr's development, especially with Gruden calling plays.

No. 3: Gruden said he can improve Carr’s supporting cast. That’s certainly true. While the offensive line is virtually set, there could be an overhaul at receiver outside Amari Cooper. Michael Crabtree could be cut without guaranteed money. So can Cordarrelle Patterson. GM Reggie McKenzie loves Seth Roberts, but he’s only owed $2 million guaranteed coming off a down year. Gruden might prefer other pass catching options, and could make some changes there this offseason. 

Getting Carr back on track following a down year is Gruden’s most important job. Gruden has confidence the signal caller will thrive in a system he’ll work within for several years to come thanks to a 10-year contract the head coach signed this week. 

“I think there is a huge ceiling in Derek Carr. I think he has proven that,” Gruden said. “It’s up to us as a coaching staff to improve around him, get more consistent, and come up with an offense that really allows him to soar into another level. It is exciting and I think if I was a Raiders fan, I would come every week very excited to see No. 4 under center.”

Raiders confirm Greg Papa out as team's radio voice after two decades


Raiders confirm Greg Papa out as team's radio voice after two decades

The Raiders made it official Thursday. Legendary broadcaster Greg Papa, who also serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, no longer will be the radio voice of the team.

[RAY RATTO: Raiders' exit feels much more imminent after reported broadcaster swap]

Raiders owner Mark Davis made the following statement Thursday: 

The Raiders organization would like to thank Greg Papa for his two decades of service to the Silver and Black.. He wasn’t just given the job.. He earned it.. With intense preparation Greg was always ready for the call.. Just as my generation remembers Bill King and “Holy Toledo”.. The Raider Nation will remember Greg Papa and “Touchdown Raiders”.. We wish Greg and his family the best in whatever the future brings..
-Mark Davis-

Brent Musburger reportedly will replace Papa in the booth. That hasn't been made official, however. 

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.