The Oakland Raiders are poised to make some noise in 2019. They’ve added serious talent at a lot of positions and the team is hardly recognizable compared to last year’s roster. Even with the league’s toughest schedule, the Raiders’ record should be greatly improved. If the team can’t at least get to seven wins, that’s going to be a disappointment for all of Raider Nation. In the unfortunate event that the Raiders don’t live up to expectations, heads will start to roll.
The Raiders are bringing back the majority of their coaching staff from a season ago. The higher-ups understood that the team lacked talent, so they’re going to roll with a lot of the same guys. However, now that the team has talent, there’s nowhere to hide if the team underperforms. Head coach Jon Gruden isn’t going anywhere because he’s got a fat contract and the owner on his side. There will need to be fall guys if the Raiders disappoint. Below we’re going to go through some of the coaches that could get the ax if their units fail.
It’s no secret that Raider fans have wanted offensive line coach Tom Cable gone since he was brought back on by Jon Gruden. His loathed zone-blocking scheme doesn’t make any sense with the personnel that the Raiders have. The team went from the eighth best offensive line in the NFL for 2017 to the 28th in 2018. The Raiders offensive line was hit with a number of injuries last season, but that is a steep drop for a unit that’s loaded with talent. General manager Mike Mayock has gifted Cable with even more talent with the addition of right-tackle Trent Brown and left-guard Richie Incognito. If Kolton Miller improves and plays more like a first round pick, the Raiders don’t have a weak link across the entire offensive line.
Cable has never fielded an elite unit, so it’s baffling that he’s lasted this long. Russell Wilson was sacked 285 times in six seasons while Cable was coaching the offensive line in front of him. If quarterback Derek Carr is even knocked down by a gust of wind that counts as a sack, fans are going to call for Cable’s head. This may very well be Cable’s last chance to make it work in the NFL. Hopefully, Gruden doesn’t continue to lengthen his leash if he fails.
Similar to Cable’s hiring, Greg Olson’s hiring raised some eyebrows due to his failure as an offensive coordinator in Oakland during Dennis Allen’s reign. Olson isn’t a bad coach, he helped turn Jared Goff into a solid quarterback after a disappointing rookie season. And in all honesty, Olson is the offensive coordinator in name only. This is Jon Gruden’s offense and it always will be. The Olson hiring makes sense in retrospect because no top offensive mind is going to want to come to the Raiders and play second fiddle to Gruden. Olson doesn’t get to call plays or make his own playbook. He’s a glorified assistant to Gruden. The only reason Olson makes this list is because Gruden is going to need a fall guy if the offense underperforms for the second year in a row. Now, if the Raiders offense can play as well as they should, Olson will be sitting pretty. That said, Gruden won’t hesitate to throw Olson under the bus if he has to.
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Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther may have a little bit more leverage than some of the other guys on this list because he had a really good track record with the Cincinnati Bengals. When Guenther was hired by the Raiders, many praised the move. The problem is that the Raiders defense was abysmal last year. In Guenther’s defense, he lost his best player in Khalil Mack when the Raiders traded him right before the season started. It’s not easy to overcome the loss of one of the best overall players of the last decade and not have a replacement for him. Guenther’s defense was only able to put up 13 sacks in 2018 and was frequently torched by opposing offenses.
Guenther’s outlook for 2019 looks much brighter as the Raiders invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball in the draft, including three defensive players taken in the first 40 picks. With another year under his belt and more talent behind him, it’s almost inconceivable that the Raider defense won’t improve. That’s why Guenther can’t fail. Gruden has given him almost free reign to run the defense so the blame would rightfully be put on his shoulders if the defense struggles. Guenther has proven that he can coach a good defense given the right amount of talent. It might be premature to say he’s already on the hot seat, but putting up two terrible seasons in a row could spell the end for Guenther.