ALAMEDA – An NFL sideline is a fishbowl. Cameras will catch almost every interaction during the game, most of which are super boring.
You’ll see players staring at tablets and talking strategy, or coaches trying to fire up a position group. You’ll some funny facial expressions reacting to results, good and bad. And, on rare occasions, exchanges will turn heated and fans will freak the frick out.
That happened between Raiders coach Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther following Raheem Mostert’s 52-yard touchdown run in Thursday’s 34-3 loss to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Gruden got Guenther’s attention and voiced his displeasure with yet another big play in an embarrassing loss, then Guenther clapped back a bit.
Those windows into the sideline are often blown out of proportion, leading outsiders to wonder whether the Gruden-Guenther dynamic has fractured in some way.
That certainly isn’t the case. Gruden handpicked Guenther to help rebuild this Raiders franchise. The two live close to each other in the Easy Bay and carpool to work most days. They are in lockstep trying to execute a long-term plan.
Gruden made that clear in his press conference Friday afternoon when asked about the heated exchange.
“You should see us on the golf course,” Gruden said. “Look, you go down the field, you score a touchdown and I don’t know the next play they get a 52-yard run and you say, ‘what the hell happened?’ You know? You’re on the phone talking with somebody and the next thing you know it’s a big play. Frustration kicks in on his behalf and my behalf. I’m sure emotions get caught on tape sometimes but, there’s not a better coach I know than Paul Guenther. There’s not a better friend that I have than Paul Guenther.
“We’re going to argue and jaw, probably tonight, deep into the night over a lot of things. I’ll see if we can get video footage for you.”
In Townsend they trust
Rookie punter Johnny Townsend had yet another poor showing against the 49ers, with a 36.5 net average, and is second worst in percentage of punts placed inside the 20-yard line.
He has struggled with both power and accuracy at times, with poor punts outnumbering the good ones. Gruden continues to stay with the University of Florida product despite recent results.
“I think he’s overthinking some things a little bit,” Gruden said. “Directional punting, putting the ball between the numbers to the side line to the right, to the left, getting it off quicker, whatever it may be. I make no excuses for Townsend, but I will say this, I have seen him bomb it. I have seen him be a difference-maker and I am confident it’s in our near future.
"I went through this with [Shane] Lechler. Lechler used to tick me off. He used to punt the ball out of the Black Hole instead of trying to get it inside the 10. I’ve been through it with [Sebastian] Janikowski. Everybody hated Janikowski for the first three or four games. I’m going to be patient and everybody knows that’s not a strength of mine.”
The Raiders suffered more injuries to their offensive line. Kolton Miller and Kelechi Osemele aggravated knee injuries that hindered them recently, which might keep them out next week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Gruden wasn’t prepared to make proclamations about either player, but bought some insurance at tackle. They claimed 2016 fourth-round pick David Sharpe off waivers from Houston and placed T.J. Clemmings on injured reserve, providing an option at left tackle if Miller can’t go.
Jon Feliciano will play left guard if Osemele’s back on the shelf.
Gruden said the team’s record won’t impact their level of caution bringing these players back.
“We’re never going to put a player at risk. We never would do that,” Gruden said. “If they can play through it, we’re going to let them play. That’s a big part about being a great pro football player. I’ve been around guys that have iron-man streaks. … You never feel good. These men never feel good from the time training camp starts until about two months into the offseason. If the trainer says we’re putting them in any danger, they will not play. If they can play through something, we’re going to try to encourage them to do that, just like we encourage everybody at every position to do it.”