Jon Gruden approached the season with an intention to win, but after getting off to a poor start, the Oakland Raiders changed directions quickly and decided to rebuild. They’ve traded top talent like Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and received several first-round picks in return, and they’ll be armed with plenty of salary cap space in the future.
Between all the high draft picks and salary cap space, Gruden said this week that he believes the Raiders are in a good spot for the future.
Jon Gruden On how good of a spot the team is in with three first round draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft:
“I think we’ve accumulated five first round picks in the next two years. I think, obviously, we’ve got some money to spend on potential free agents, which is also exciting.”
There is no doubt that the Raiders are loaded with assets heading into the future. The question is whether Gruden is the person who can best take advantage of them.
Between his decision to take Kolton Miller in the first round this year, his trade for Martavis Bryant, and things like his signing of Jordy Nelson, we have our serious doubts about whether he can turn picks and cap space into a winner.
The 2018 NFL regular season has now officially hit the midway point, and it’s been a very adventurous ride through the first eight weeks, with things getting even uglier for a struggling Raiders team. Here’s a look at the NFL’s 10 biggest mid-season surprises.
10. Giants’ offense is still pure comedy
With a new general manager, new head coach, new offensive coordinator, revamped offensive line and the addition of rookie running back Saquon Barkley, many expected the Giants to feature one of the league’s best offenses a year removed from being on of the worst. Instead, things have remarkably gone the other way with the Giants consistently struggling despite a roster of big names. Through eight games, they average just 18.8 points per game and just 7.2 points in the first half. They are converting just 35% of their third-down attempts and have a success rate of just 40% in the red zone. It all amounts to a team 28th in the league in points scored this season.
The Oakland Raiders have already traded away two of their core players in the nine short months that Jon Gruden has been with the team, and some believe Derek Carr could be the next to go. Assuming the head coach is telling the truth, that is not going to happen this season.
On Wednesday, Gruden told reporters that he does not anticipate making any more trades prior to the Oct. 30 deadline. He said that is “certainly” the case with Carr.
Jon Gruden: “I don’t see us making any more trades. Certainly, I don’t see us trading our quarterback.”
Carr’s salary cap hit for 2019 is scheduled to be $22.5 million, but the Raiders could save $15 million if they decided to part ways with him this offseason. It seems unlikely that the franchise will give up on Carr after he signed a five-year, $125 million extension last summer, but Gruden now has three first-round picks in 2019 after trading away Khail Mack and Amari Cooper. If the coach wants to draft a QB, he’ll be in a great position to do that.
Jon Gruden’s second stint as head coach of the Oakland Raiders is off to a rough start, and it sounds like he has quickly lost the trust of many of his players.
Gruden has already traded two of Oakland’s core players in pass-rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper. While seasoned NFL veterans know enough to never be surprised by a roster move, some Raiders players told Vic Tafur of The Athletic that the way Gruden handled the trades has them questioning the coach’s “accountability.”
“When what you say and what you do are two different things, there is a problem,” one player said.
Gruden said publicly that he was not entertaining trade offers for Cooper, and he was apparently telling the team the same in private. After he was dealt to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, Cooper was pulled off the practice field without Gruden explaining why. Players later learned about the trade by checking their phones, and Gruden still had not addressed the team about it as of Tuesday. He did, however, speak with ESPN and say the Raiders are done dealing and are “trying to stay competitive.”
Veteran players who spoke with Tafur indicated they don’t believe Gruden when he says he is not tanking in 2018.
“You have to wonder if we haven’t been playing for draft picks all along,” one player said. “Despite everything the coaches told us at training camp.”
Another player described the Mack deal as a “stiff jab” but the Cooper trade as a “knockout punch” because players were blindsided by it coming out of the bye.
“We didn’t want to believe it was coming, and Coach said we weren’t going to trade him,” the veteran said.
One report we heard about the Cooper trade may help explain why Gruden said one thing publicly and then did another, but he obviously has a real problem on his hands. Having three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft is nice, but the level of trust with Gruden is only going to continue plummeting if he can’t turn them into immediate success.
McKenzie has been Oakland’s general manager since 2012. Gruden’s arrival before this season has come with a distinct shift in organizational philosophy, with the team trading Khalil Mack and now Cooper to accumulate draft picks and free up cap space. Gruden himself denied talk of a Cooper trade, and it came to fruition, so either he was deflecting or completely out of the loop. The former is much more likely, but either way, the situation is emblematic of the odd and confusing dynamic that has developed around the organization since Gruden’s arrival.
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden on Tuesday was critical of cornerback Rashaan Melvin when speaking with the media.
Melvin went from starter to taking a small role in the Raiders’ 27-3 blowout loss to the Seahawks in London on Sunday. The demotion was part of major changes that also saw cornerback Gareon Conley benched.
Melvin was demoted because he has had a tough time adapting to the Raiders’ “motor” technique since they signed him to a 1-year, $5.5 million deal in the offseason. Melvin wondered after Sunday’s game why the Raiders tried to change his style when they knew what he could do playing the style he has in the past.
“Film is a player’s resume. Once a player gets here, you want to change that, and a player takes a decline. You have to take a look at certain things. ‘OK, why is this player doing this? Why is this player not being this type of player, whatever he might have been?’ And you can tell the difference,” Melvin said, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Melvin also tweeted Monday that he was done trying to change his style.
I’m done trying to change my style. It’s not me. Back to what I know and what got me here!! #22
What was Gruden’s response? He took a jab at Melvin about being on his seventh team and therefore being “confused” about his technique.
Gruden was aware of Rashaan Melvin's tweet/unhappiness: "Melvin is on his seventh team. Maybe he is confused about what technique he is using. He is frustrated. I can't blame him … He is a good kid." #Raiders
Are the Oakland Raiders shopping wide receiver Amari Cooper? While one prominent reporter says yes, the head coach is saying no.
FOX Sports’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday that the Raiders were shopping Cooper around the league, but head coach Jon Gruden refuted that report when asked about it after his team’s 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Gruden on report that he's shopping Amari: "I don't know. I haven't heard that. I'm not. I'm not. I'm just sorry to have to deal with a lot of these reports. I just hope Amari's okay. Like I said, he's going to be a big part of our pass offense."
No running back is more familiar with the idea of a goal line pass play blowing up in a team’s face than the one Jon Gruden has in his backfield with the Oakland Raiders, but that didn’t stop the coach from trying to get fancy during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. While it did not work out, Gruden does not regret the play-call.
The Raiders had gone 74 yards in 10 plays before a pass interference call in the end zone placed the ball at the 1-yard line. Rather than handing it to Marshawn Lynch for what could have been an easy score, Gruden called a play-action pass with his team trailing 20-3. The end result was Carr’s eighth interception of the season, but Gruden defended the decision.
“Certainly the call is to hand the ball to Lynch there because of what happened, but first-and-goal at the 1, a play pass, faking to Lynch, has been a great call for a lot of years,” Gruden said, per Jimmy Durkin of The Athletic.
Lynch, of course, was lined up in the backfield when the Seattle Seahawks threw the most infamous interception in NFL history to lose Super Bowl XLIX. Not wanting to sugarcoat anything, Gruden placed the blame squarely on Carr’s shoulders.
“The decision there is to throw it and if it’s not open, you throw it away. It just didn’t work out,” he said. “We expected to have a wide open receiver on the play and obviously that’ll be second-guessed — rightfully so — but shouldn’t have made that throw down there. I’ll live to hand the ball off and the next play possibly.”
Gruden is right that Carr should never have made the throw, and perhaps the coach was trying to design a play that would give his quarterback some confidence. Still, you’d like to hear the coach share some of the blame while speaking with the media — even if everyone knows he is just defending his QB.
This isn’t the first time we have seen Gruden throw someone under the bus this year, so passing the buck is becoming somewhat of a theme in Oakland.
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
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
We’re guessing that Mayfield’s career will work out better than some of Gruden’s previous quarterback assessments, because Mayfield looks like the real deal. Given Oakland’s struggles this season, it’s actually going to be a game worth watching.