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The Case Against Jon Gruden |
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11/28/18 11:16 PM
I have a thread titled "In Defense Of Jon Gruden", where I put on my defender's hat to present a fair perspective amidst the heavy criticism Gruden was facing at the time I started that thread.
This thread seeks to balance things out, as I put on my prosecutor's hat.
Chucky took over a team that was a bit of a dumpster fire. But dumpster fires are well contained, so they are not difficult to put out. It was a dumpster fire that had a legitimate starting NFL quarterback in his prime in Derek Carr as well as arguably the best defensive player in the game in Khalil Mack and a good young receiver in Amari Cooper.
So far, the Raiders have kept their quarterback, but traded Mack to the Bears for two first round draft picks and Cooper to Dallas for one first rounder.
As I write, the Raiders have tanked to 2-9. The Bears, aided greatly by the terrific playmaking skills of Mack, have gone from mediocrity to one of the better teams in the league, sporting an 8-3 record at this time.
Khalil Mack is a game changer. This is undeniable. Mark Davis, Reggie McKenzie, Jon Gruden, and Khalil Mack and his agent may be the only people who know if Mack made himself unavailable as a player for the Raiders starting in 2018. Was Mack going to commit himself to holding out? Did the Raiders lowball him? Did the negotiations get personal and by the time Gruden signed on, was Mack a lost cause to the Raiders?
Like Gruden, Joe Gibbs was a rare example of a coach who returned to the NFL after a decade or more absence. And like Gruden, Gibbs was immediately faced with a situation where a superstar player--future Hall of Fame shutdown corner Champ Bailey--wanted out of Washington. That was the report, anyway. Gibbs traded Bailey to Denver for running back Clinton Portis. And while Portis was a good player, he did not compare in value to Bailey, as Mike Shanahan got the better of that deal.
Gibbs came back as a much older man. A man incapable of duplicating his previous achievements. A man lacking in energy. Still a great man and a great leader, but no longer the self-determining force that made him arguably the greatest NFL coach of all time. A man who--because of his age and health--wanted a quick fix. Win now. So Champ Bailey was traded for a current star player instead of draft choices. One of which could have landed them Aaron Rodgers, but we'll never know.
Gruden--by contrast--comes back still young and energetic. The future is what he's focused on. Unlikely for a veteran coach returning after a decade. But the transition from Oakland to Vegas obviously plays into that. So does the length of his contract. Tanking--a concomitant of analytics--also does. This provides temporary cover for Gruden and all other "trust the process" people.
Amari Cooper was just named Player Of The Week for his performance with Dallas as he seeks to help the Cowboys win a hotly contested NFC East.
Gruden and his Raiders have seen their potential first round draft assets slip lower and lower as the Bears and Cowboys thrive.
So Gruden has taken a manageable dumpster fire and quickly converted it to a greasefire, which--if not extinguished properly--will spread out into something less manageable.
The only way Jon Gruden--arsonist extraordinaire--can put out his greasefire is to use his bevy of draft picks wisely and hope he gets lucky enough to have the right players available to him at the time he makes his draft selections. But Gruden already made a fundamental mistake with his first draft selection. At #15, he chose Kolton Miller, offensive left tackle, but later acknowledged that he would have chosen safety Derwin James--taken by the Chargers at #17--if the Raiders had not chosen a safety in the first round in 2016 (Karl Joseph-- backup) and a safety in the second round in 2017 (Obi Melifonwu--waived in August). Funny logic, since we know their status.
The jury is out on Miller, but the consensus is in on Derwin James: After 12 weeks, he's the best defensive rookie as rated by Pro Football Focus and other sources.
Gruden sounds like he was doing some revisionist thinking and/or making a fraudulent excuse for not drafting Derwin James. He's telling us he was drafting for need. But it's almost always best to take the best player available. And that player appears to have been Derwin James. This leaves Gruden's draft judgment in question.
He's given himself lots of cap space to sign players, including potential free agents, but that's a hit and miss world. And those free agent price tags add up quickly.
Fortunately for Chucky, there are two scenarios on the horizon: win-win or win-lose. But there is no lose-lose situation awaiting Jon. He's already won by virtue of his unprecedented contract, so if he's fired well before his ten year contract expires, he's got a ton a of money waiting for him and can go right back to television--the wasteland for failed coaches.
Tanking gives him a pass for now. The report card will not be ready for at least a few years or more. At which time--if the greasefire persists--Chucky can head out of town with the stereo system in his hummer blasting out the tune "Money For Nothin'" by Dire Straits. What a country!
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