To say that the 2018 off-season has been tumultuous for the Oakland Raiders would be a massive understatement. On New Year’s eve of last year, shortly after a 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, head coach Jack Del Rio was fired, and the Raider Nation knew exactly why. After almost 20 years, the ol’ ball coach, Jon Gruden was back in black. Since that happened, speculation has been running wild. Oakland’s offense has incredible potential, but there are also some questions. To ease… or perhaps quell fears, here’s the worst-case scenario for Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.
This article isn’t going to be an easy read for most fans of the Oakland Raiders. It will address things about the team that most fans are already worried about, and might upset some people. However, stick with it, because there’s a silver (and black) lining at the bottom. So make like Lester Hayes’ gloves and stick with it.
The Worst Case Scenario for the Oakland Raiders
While most Raiders fans are ecstatic about Gruden’s return, there are those that have concerns. After all, Gruden has been out of coaching since 2008, and it’s not like he was the offensive mastermind in Tampa Bay that revived the careers of Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, and Tim Brown in the early 2000’s. During Gruden’s seven seasons as the head coach of the Buccaneers, the team was only top ten in offense once, and they went 7-9 that year. Most of his success with Tampa Bay came from a defense that was installed before he even got there.
And it’s not like Chucky chose to hit the booth, he was fired by Tampa Bay in 2008. The team couldn’t seem to get over the hill, and his Buccaneers were 0-2 in the playoffs after their Super Bowl season. He’s been out of coaching since, bringing frequent comparisons to Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs, and not in a good way.
Here are the biggest fears of the more skeptical members of the Raider Nation.
Gruden vs. McKenzie
When Mark Davis gave Gruden a 10 year, 100 million dollar contract, it was obvious that it was Chucky’s team moving forward. This raised a ton of questions, the biggest being whether or not general manager and former Executive of the Year, Reggie McKenzie would be retained.
At Gruden’s press conference, the new/old coach attempted to sweep a few of those questions under the rug, saying they’d work together and that he was excited to work with McKenzie. And then the draft happened, and it was very, very clear that Gruden is calling the shots.
Trading down felt like a McKenzie move, but selecting raw giant, Kolton Miller, is a very, very Gruden move. The following picks were mostly raw gambles with incredible upside, headlined by defenders Mo Hurst and Arden Key, first round talents with off the field and/or health issues. There are rumors running wild that Gruden wants Bruce Allen in an executive role with Oakland and that McKenzie has essentially been replaced as the team’s general manager.
Some Raiders fans will rejoice at this news. Not everyone appreciates McKenzie’s tenure in Oakland, mostly because many of his draft picks have been hit or miss. However, McKenzie is the man who gave Oakland both Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, as well as standouts like Karl Joseph, Gabe Jackson, Amari Cooper, and others. Not to mention, McKenzie’s cap work is brilliant. The Oakland Raiders could release most of their players with little-to-no dead money against the cap thanks to McKenzie’s genius capwork.
The worst case scenario would see McKenzie leaving Oakland, most likely for a job in Green Bay.
The AARP Raiders
One of the biggest criticisms of Gruden’s new-look Raiders is that many of the new Raiders aren’t so new. This off-season, Gruden added Andrew DePaola, Breno Giacomini, Leon Hall, Dwayne Harris, Derrick Johnson, Josh Johnson, Jordy Nelson, and Shareece Wright, all of whom are 30 or older. While Gruden definitely wants to create a competitive environment with experienced veterans that will either replace or bring the best out of younger players, it’s hard to get excited about older, slower veterans.
Most of those guys joined the team on relatively inexpensive contracts, so if they don’t pan out, it won’t hurt the team. However, it is hard to ignore the jeers of experts and fellow fans as the team signs old vet after old vet, and it’s hard to look at these signings without thinking that this is exactly like something Al Davis would’ve done.
The Worst Case Scenario?
The worst case scenario is that Mark Davis has just signed a ten year, 100 million dollar death sentence. The worst case scenario is that the washed up Gruden will take the team back to 1998 with a ton of washed up has-beens that have lost a step, holding Khalil Mack and Derek Carr back from ever reaching their full potential, chasing off one of the NFL’s best executives and stealing the last few seasons in Oakland away from the local fans.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, wanna know why?
The Good News
Raider Nation probably isn’t pleased with this article, but there’s something you guys have to realize. This is the worst-scenario. This is the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen. This is the floor. The reality? Is that the Oakland Raiders will probably be a lot better than this.
The Prodigal Son Returns
Sure, Gruden has been away from the sideline for a while, but he hasn’t been away from the game. He’s been in the booth, every Monday night, watching the evolution of football. He’s seen everything from the Wildcat to Brett Favre’s multiple retirements to the rise and fall of the option quarterback. Gruden sat in the best seat in the house while every fad imaginable has come and gone, taking notes, paying attention. The game couldn’t have passed him by too much, he had better seats for more primetime games than anyone else in the world for several years.
Not to mention, not everything that went wrong for Gruden in Tampa Bay was his fault. After all, he was traded for by the Buccaneers, and as a result, had fewer picks to build a team with. Not to mention, then general manager Rick McKay, made some very questionable free agent decisions, investing way too much money in the likes of Brad Johnson and Keyshawn Johson (no relation), who never really panned out.
Not to say that Chucky was completely innocent. After all, his quarterback collection remains infamous. He searched high and low to find his quarterback, and never really seemed to pull it off in Tampa like he had in Oakland with Rich Gannon. However, with Carr under center in Oakland, this won’t be a problem. He already has his guy. Speaking of which.
The Chosen One
s for Carr, it’s asinine to blame him entirely for his 2017 struggles. Everything that could’ve gone wrong for number four, did. He was recovering from a broken fibula, in an offense that proved to be horrible, and that was just how the season started. Jack Del Rio completely lost the locker room just in time for Carr to literally break his back. When he was finally healthy, he was playing on a team that had given up on the season, with receivers that dropped everything but a mixtape, running an offense that ran draws out of the shotgun with Marshawn Lynch and threw four yard outs on third and thirteen.
But he’s completely healthy now, with a quarterback-friendly staff, and a whole slew of new weapons (Again, read all about em here), and he’s fired up. He wants to compete, he wants to win, and he’s going to have every single chance to do so. I would be surprised if 2018 wasn’t the best year of Derek Carr’s career (so far).
Your Dad’s Raiders
Sure, signing a ton of old, possibly washed up free agents sounds like something Al Davis would do, but let’s pause on that thought for a second. Sure, Al Davis signed a few duds, looking at you, Javon Walker, but what about the others?
Once upon a time, the mystique of the Oakland Raiders was that fallen stars, draft busts, and “old, possibly washed up free agents” could come to Oakland and find a second wind, an autumn wind, and reinvigorate their careers. Guys like Rich Gannon, Jim Plunkett, Jerry Rice, Lyle Alzado, and John Matuszak were considered done before they put on the best uni in professional sports and enjoyed a career renaissance.
Maybe the same could be true for the likes of Jordy Nelson or Doug Martin. Not to mention, the team isn’t exactly ancient. The cornerstones of the team, Carr, Cooper, Mack, Gareon Conley, and Joseph are all still in their mid-20’s. The only difference is that there’s more veteran leadership in Gruden’s locker room than there was in Del Rio’s.
The reality is that we won’t know what’s going to happen in Oakland until September. The Raiders could be great, they could be horrible, or they could remain the exactly the same. We can do nothing but speculate until the actual season starts. But the doom and gloom that we’re seeing all over, including in this article, is only the worst case scenario. In all likelihood? The team will be much, much better than this, and at the very least, extremely entertaining.
Gruden’s Raiders aren’t the most predictable or conventional thus far, but let’s be honest, when have the silver and black ever been either of those things? Gruden doesn’t care about making popular moves or pleasing the media, he only cares about one thing. It’s the same thing Al Davis cared about, the same thing Ken Stabler cared about, and it’s the same thing the Raider Nation cares about. Jon Gruden only wants to do one thing.
Just win, baby.