In Jon Gruden’s first run as their coach, the Raiders made a big turnaround in his third season. After two straight 8-8 finishes, the team went 12-4 in 2000 to capture the AFC West championship.
Fast-forward 20 years and Gruden and the Raiders are again heading into their third season together. Coming off two rebuilding seasons in which they went a combined 12-23, history could repeat itself with another big step forward.
One major difference: Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were not in the picture in 2000. For the Raiders to duplicate another third-year Gruden turnaround and win a division title, it would probably require the Chiefs taking an unexpected tumble.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on Tuesday compared rookie wide receiver Bryan Edwards to Carr’s former Fresno State teammate and current Packers’ star Davante Adams. On Friday one of Edwards’ high school coaches said he has long seen similarities to another perennial All-Pro.
“He’s always reminded me of A.J. Green,” said Conway (S.C.) head coach Carlton Terry, who was an assistant when Edwards played there and coached against Green in high school. “They both just have that ability to make plays at receiver and return punts. Just men on the field in comparison to the other players. Not only did they stand out vertically, but for big men to have that athleticism is just so rare.”
Edwards’ natural gifts were evident from the moment he walked into Conway High School as a 13-year-old freshman.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden on Thursday talked about the need to adapt every day to the practice availability of his players.
It went without saying he was referring to the potential impact of COVID-19, the constant shadow he and the Raiders will be operating under this year.
By late afternoon, that possibility became a reality when Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby and running back Rod Smith were added to the COVID-19 injured reserve list.