It appears as if the Oakland — soon to be Las Vegas — Raiders are prepared to take a long and expensive trip back down memory lane.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jon Gruden is expected to become the Raiders’ next head coach. The lucrative contractual package could contain an ownership stake in the team. This news comes on the heels of Oakland deciding to fire Jack Del Rio after three seasons with the club.
Gruden had long been rumored to make a return to the coaching ranks. A visible figure within the football media world, Gruden had built up quite a nice career for himself as an analyst.
Due to his prior success with both the Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many franchises had been interested in his services. Gruden warded off advances time after time — though this particular situation may be too good to pass up.
From Gruden’s point of view, the move does make sense if wants to return to coaching. His relationship with owner Mark Davis stretches back 20 years. The two have a close bond, which made the timing behind Del Rio’s firing interesting. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to fire a coach coming off a 12-4 record last season unless another candidate is already in place.
Secondly, there’s quite a bit of buzz surrounding the franchise’s eventual splashy move to Las Vegas. There’s no income tax in Nevada — which is a considerable perk for any employee of the state. Additionally, the roster has a host of young and very talented players (Amari Cooper, Derek Carr, Khalil Mack) to work with. Carr in particular would be a focal point. With such a grand impetus placed upon merely average quarterback play, the offensive-minded Gruden would surely love to work with a rising star in Carr.
The AFC West is rather wide open at the moment. Denver looks to be in transition on both sides of the ball in the upcoming years. The offense is in shambles, and the defense is aging. The same can be said for Kansas City and Los Angeles — as Alex Smith and Philip Rivers likely won’t be playing a whole lot longer. It’s a division looking for one team to reach out and grab it with clutches of consistency.
There’s certainly some nostalgia at play here. During Gruden’s time in Oakland, the Raiders went 38-26. This included two AFC West Titles and two playoff victories. Plagued as a franchise rooted in tumult and inconsistency, the Gruden era represented a bit of a reprieve.
It all sounds great on Gruden’s end. As for Oakland, there are some serious questions that need to be asked.
Assuming the report is true, offering Gruden an ownership stake seems a bit strange. None of the other major coaches currently have this benefit. There’s also the semantics side of the transaction to suss through. In order for Gruden to inherit a stake in the franchise, 24 of the 32 NFL owners must approve the request. This process could be time consuming or even troublesome should some owners not want to set a precedent in gifting a head coach a piece of the proverbial pie.
There’s also the tangible time in which Gruden’s been out of coaching. He last coached in 2008. Gruden is a reputed film junkie. Based upon his standing as an ESPN NFL analyst, he also has been studying the modern evolution of the game schematically. With that said, it’s a far different game than the one Gruden had coached in 10 years prior.
Spread elements have been neatly integrated into virtually all offensive set-ups. Gruden — an offensively inclined coach himself — hasn’t had the opportunity to manage under these conditions. Oakland runs the risk of hiring a head coach with somewhat of an antiquated playbook.
In response to the rumors, Gruden offered this message:
“My understanding is they’re interviewing candidates this week and they’re going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision. Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I’m a candidate.”
Gruden does have a Super Bowl ring to fall back on. As the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden led the team to a 48-21 victory over (ironically enough) the Oakland Raiders. Some feel as if Tony Dungy should get partial credit. He was largely the architect behind Tampa Bay’s dominant and uber-talented defense. In six seasons after the Super Bowl victory, Gruden won at least 10 games only once.
There’s no questioning Gruden’s magnetic personality. He will be well-liked by both players and the media. With that said, it’ll be fascinating to see whether Gruden can replicate the magic he once had more than a decade ago.