The Oakland Raiders put the future of the franchise in the hands of Jon Gruden last year when they signed the head coach to an eye-popping 10-year deal worth $100-million.
His first season of this tenure didn’t go too well though. It all started with the Khalil Mack situation. Oakland ended up trading the superstar pass rusher to the Chicago Bears. Although they got a haul of picks in return, it was clear in 2018 that Mack is a game-changer on defense.
Meanwhile, the Bears went 12-4 and the Raiders went 4-12 – one game off the worst record in the NFL.
Other bad headlines included a poor relationship between Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr and the trade of wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Then Gruden flipped the script with the trade for superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown though. He also had a draft with a ton of potential and now season two is looking to be a major improvement. What does Gruden need to do though?
Here are three things Jon Gruden must prove with the Oakland Raiders in 2019.
3. There Are No Issues Between Him and Derek Carr
This was a clear problem last season. It was no secret that there was a little bit of an issue with the two. Whether it was reports – or the slightly more obvious body language and yelling on the sideline – it was clear the two didn’t always see eye-to-eye.
However, that doesn’t mean the relationship was nearly as “fractured” as some made it seem.
The two don’t seem to be having much of a problem with each other so far this camp and if they can get along it could go a long way in developing Derek Carr. If the quarterback can return to form under the coaching of Jon Gruden, the Oakland Raiders could be headed in the right direction – fast.
Remember, Gruden is known as a quarterback guru. Meanwhile, Carr is someone a lot of people believe can be a great QB in the NFL.
This could be a beautiful marriage.
2. The Khalil Mack Trade Wasn’t That Bad
The immediate reaction to the Khalil Mack trade was simple. How could a team trade away a rare talent like Mack? They must be stupid.
Then after the season, the reaction was still simple. Any team that would trade away Mack is really stupid.
The reason for this was that Mack put up ridiculous numbers the entire year. He’s the main reason the Chicago Bears’ defense was so dominant and was definitely a main factor in the team making it to the playoffs.
However, people tend to gloss over the fact that the Oakland Raiders got a big return. Oakland got a first-rounder in 2019 and 2020. They also got a third-round pick in 2019 and a sixth-round pick in 2020. That’s a lot of future talent right there.
They also got a first-round pick from the Dallas Cowboys for Amari Cooper.
They started the rebuild this year. The idea is they’d get players that fit Gruden’s system and type. With three first-rounders in 2019 they got defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and safety Johnathan Abram.
I’m not going to name all their other draft picks because there were a lot. However, if this draft class can show that Gruden has an idea of where he wants to go with the future, things will be looking up.
Gruden can prove that he understood losing Mack was tough, but that they can rebuild the team faster with all the draft stock they’ve collected. Having a big year-one is a must.
1. He’s Already Rebuilt the Roster
With the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades last season, it was pretty clear to everyone that the Oakland Raiders were rebuilding. However, Jon Gruden may feel like it was much more of a “re-tooling” than anything else.
The head coach can prove that the Raiders aren’t rebuilding thanks to all the solid offseason additions he’s made.
I’m not just talking about the draft either (that would make this more of a rebuild than anything), I’m talking about the signings.
Of course, the big move was the trade for Antonio Brown. There’s a strong argument for a lot of wide receivers in the NFL to be considered the best in the league. Brown has one of the best cases. Oakland also signed solid veterans like Ryan Grant and Tyrell Williams at the position.
Meanwhile, they also beefed up the offensive line with Richie Incognito. Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall are fantastic linebackers who legitimize that position as well.
Then there are slightly more under-the-radar additions like Isaiah Crowell and Ethan Westbrooks (who could be a really great piece for the defensive line).
The Oakland Raiders probably won’t go out in 2019 and win the Super Bowl. They likely will have to fight extremely hard to even make the playoffs. However, they can take a major step in the right direction thanks to a lot of talented additions they’ve made.
With that, Jon Gruden can prove the culture shift he was going for is a very real thing.
He knew what he was doing all along and sometimes you just have to trust the process (sorry Sixers).