Oakland Raiders

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

Jon Gruden believes playing better in cold will help Raiders evolution

The Raiders surged to 6-4 with a three-game winning streak just after midseason but had a tough time sustaining that success. They lost control of their playoff destiny in an ensuing four-game slide, finishing the season with five losses in their last six games.

There were plenty of reasons why the Raiders ran out of gas. They always were better than the sum of their parts, clearly talent deficient in certain areas when compared to better competition. They also suffered a series of setbacks, from Antonio Brown's meltdown to Vontaze Burfict’s suspension to a series of injury setbacks the Raiders weren’t deep enough to survive in the midst of roster reconstruction.

Head coach Jon Gruden threw another issue into the mix that cropped up during the Raiders’ poor finish.

“I think the cold weather is one thing,” Gruden said at his season-ending press conference. “We got to prove we can exorcise that demon. We got to play better in the bad weather.

“I remember when I went to Tampa Bay, they hadn’t won a game in the history of the franchise in temperatures that were below 40 degrees and every single game we played that’s all we heard. And we are going to continue to hear it, hear it and hear it until we prove as a West Coast team we can go out on a cold day and win.”

The Raiders have lost seven straight games kicked off at below 40 degrees, including three late in the 2019 season. They have lost 11 straight under 50, a brutal stretch that does have to be remedied if the Silver and Black wants to orchestrate a successful run into and through the postseason. Had the Raiders been in the AFC playoffs this year, two of the four conference playoff games had been waged below 50 degrees.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things -- talent, better coaching, experience, toughness,” Gruden said. “I don’t know. Travel plans, pregame meals, something. We’ve got to play better. We got to get wins on the road and we got to look forward to playing when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s nasty, when it’s awful. You got to learn to love the misery and maybe we got to leave on a Wednesday next year and get acclimated to it. I’m not making excuses, but that’s one theme is pretty obvious and noticeable. We got to play better in lousy weather and we got to play better period in all three phases.”

[RELATED: Raiders should keep draft blueprint, raid Clemson-LSU]

Gruden also mentioned this point a day after the season finale, where they lost to Denver in the cold.

While fans typically blame Derek Carr for this issue due to his 2-11 record playing at less than 50 degrees, this is a team-wide problem.

“I know that the cold weather doesn’t affect Derek Carr," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We practice in cold weather, he practices without sleeves, he throws the ball very well. He makes appropriate checks when in practice.

“I know the quarterbacks, generally, they’re always evaluated on wins and losses. No matter what kind of weather it is, they’re always going to be judged on records. We don’t read too much into it.”

Raiders legend Cliff Branch denied in latest Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

Raiders legend Cliff Branch denied in latest Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted an expanded class in honor of the NFL’s 100th season, providing an opportunity to right some wrongs from way, way back.

They formed a blue-ribbon panel to select a larger group for induction, including 10 seniors who played at least 25 years ago, two coaches and three contributors.

But that still was not enough to get Cliff Branch in the Hall.

The legendary Raiders receiver was not included among the inductees, a disappointing turn for a Raiders franchise still mourning Branch’s loss.

Branch passed away last summer at the age of 71. Making the Hall of Fame proved elusive for the three-time Super Bowl champion and dangerous deep threat known for elite athleticism and speed.

[RELATEDBranch leaves lasting NFL legacy, earned Hall of Fame induction]

He had 501 catches for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns, averaging 17.3 yards per reception. Those totals match some of his contemporaries who have been enshrined, but his case has yet to be validated with a positive vote.

This was Branch’s best chance to get in. Now he’ll be reliant on the senior committee, which nominates one or two older players for enshrinement every year. Quarterback Ken Stabler was the last Raider inducted by the senior committee in 2016.

Roger Craig, who played for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1991, also was not selected.

The centennial class of enshrinees will be joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by five modern-era players who will be elected the day before Super 54 in Miami.

Here is the complete list of inductees selected by the blue-ribbon panel as part of the 2020 Hall of Fame Class that consists of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches:

Coaches

Bill Cowher – 1992-2006 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Jimmy Johnson – 1989-1993 (Dallas Cowboys(, 1996-99 (Miami Dolphins)

Contributors

Steve Sabol, Administrator/President – 1964-2012 (NFL Films)
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 (NFL)
George Young, Contributor/General Manager – 1968-1974 (Baltimore Colts), 1975-78 (Miami Dolphins), 1979-1997 (New York Giants), 1998-2001 (NFL)

Seniors

Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-1983 (Philadelphia Eagles), 1984 (Dallas Cowboys)
Jim Covert, T – 1983-1990 (Chicago Bears)
Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 (Green Bay Packers)
Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 (Dallas Cowboys)
Winston Hill, T – 1963-1976 (New York Jets), 1977 (Los Angeles Rams)
Alex Karras, DT – 1958-1962, 1964-1970 (Detroit Lions)
Donnie Shell, S – 1974-1987 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Duke Slater, T – 1922 (Milwaukee Badgers), 1922-25 (Rock Island Independents), 1926-1931 (Chicago Cardinals)
Mac Speedie, E – 1946-1952 (Cleveland Browns AAFC/NFL)
Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-1955 (Chicago Bears)

NFL rumors: Raiders fire D-line coach Brentson Buckner after one season

NFL rumors: Raiders fire D-line coach Brentson Buckner after one season

Brentson Buckner's time with the Raiders appears to be over after only one season. 

NFL Media's Jim Trotter reported Tuesday that the Raiders have fired Buckner and will name Rod Marinelli as their new defensive line coach. As Trotter pointed out, the Raiders improved tremendously under Buckner in 2019, improving their sack total by 19 compared to the previous season. 

Buckner reacted to the news later Tuesday afternoon.

While the Raiders vastly improved their sack numbers, they still finished the regular season tied for 24th in the NFL. But fifth-round draft pick Maxx Crosby finished the season with 10 sacks and 14 QB hits this season as a rookie, and there's no doubt Buckner played a large role in Crosby's fast transition to the NFL.

Marinelli served as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator since the 2014 season. He coached the team's D-line the year before. 

[RELATED: Gruden, Mayock spotted at East-West Shrine Bowl practice]

The Cowboys ended 2019 with 39 sacks, good for 19th in the league.

Coach Jon Gruden's decision to fire Buckner as one year in Silver and Black surely comes as a surprise.