Did Jon Gruden throw GM McKenzie under the bus over missing Derwin James?
Jon Gruden has only been the Oakland Raiders’ head coach (again) for less than a year, and it seems he’s already throwing people under the bus left and right. Not only did he say adios to Khalil Mack — which he tried to blame on Mack “not wanting to be” with the Raiders — but he also brought in Martavis Bryant on a terrible trade.
His first draft with the Raiders included some controversy. The Raiders traded down in the first round and surprisingly took left tackle Kolton Miller even though many thought they would go defense. Two good playmakers, Tremaine Edmunds and Derwin James, went in the following picks. So far, James has graded out this year as Pro Football Focus’ top defensive rookie.
The Raiders will face the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, who are benefiting from the strong play of James. Gruden talked about James on Wednesday, saying they liked James on draft day and wanted to take him. Gruden says they didn’t select James because they had taken safeties in the previous two drafts.
"We wanted to take Derwin James," Jon Gruden said. "Everybody wanted Derwin James."
The Raiders HC explained why they couldn't take him, and why James reminds him of a famous former Chargers safety. His full thoughts on the rookie: pic.twitter.com/qmlPLokf1M
— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) October 3, 2018
That seems to be Gruden saying they were drafting for need rather than best player, which is a problem. But worse than that, this can be seen as an example of Gruden throwing GM Reggie McKenzie under the bus. He is blaming their previous drafts — led by McKenzie — on the reason why they took Miller, which is poor leadership. If Gruden knew James would be this good, he should have just taken him, no excuses.
Furthermore, despite drafting safeties high in the previous two drafts, reporter Vic Tafur said McKenzie still wanted to select James in the first round in 2018. Taking Miller instead was supposedly a decision Gruden and the other coaches wanted.
This is 100% Gruden's pick. Him and Cable wanted Kolton Miller. Per Vic Tafur, McKenzie wanted Derwin James. https://t.co/Fvj7nZKtSM
— Nick Hjeltness (@NickHjeltness) April 27, 2018
As I said, Gruden has final decisions at this point. The scouting staff wanted Derwin but the coaches felt that their need at OT was too great and Gruden agreed https://t.co/pzq1V5t9to
— Asher Mathews (@AsherMathews) May 2, 2018
When you see quotes and stories like this, they seem to support the reports that say Gruden is causing a divide within the organization.