Over Jon Gruden’s first year back with the Raiders, it’s clear that he made some enemies. He replaced a well-liked coach in Jack Del Rio and completely changed the power dynamic within the organization. This ruffled a lot of feathers and only a few members of the former regime are still with the team.
Before the Raiders’ 12-4 season in 2016, they tried to bolster the defense in the 2016 NFL Draft. They drafted defensive lineman Jihad Ward in the second round over notable players like Michael Thomas and Derrick Henry. The move was questioned at the time and Ward only lasted two seasons with the team before he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for pennies on the dollar. Ward has bounced around the NFL since, but he’s clearly still upset about his Raiders tenure based on an Instagram comment.
In a now-deleted reply to a commenter who was trolling him, Ward went after the Raiders. Warning: The comments are NSFW:
“Let me tell you something n****. Anybody that got cut or traded out that was happy as s***. Trust me. Lets make this clear. Y’all find excuses everytime for that organization. Stop it. [Amari] Coop[er], [Khalil] Mack, etc was sooo f***in happy. But year ima holla at y’all.”
Multiple Rumors Show 2018 Was a Drama-Filled Year
While it’s easy to get angry with Ward’s comments, there may be some truth to them. FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer reported before the Raiders’ 2019 clash with the Chicago Bears that Khalil Mack made it clear that he did not want to play for Jon Gruden, which played a large role in him getting traded. Also, Amari Cooper has thrown shade at the team on a couple of occasions since they traded him. That’s not to mention the report of Bruce Irvin screaming “I’m free” when the Raiders traded him to the Atlanta Falcons.
Considering all that information, Ward isn’t wrong that 2018 was a complete dumpster fire and it looked like the Raiders would never figure things out. However, Ward doesn’t have any knowledge of the new players and doesn’t know general manager Mike Mayock.
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The Raiders Are Completely Different Now
Gruden deserves a pass for his first year back with the Raiders. He was stuck with a general manager in Reggie McKenzie, who clearly peaked in 2014. Yes, he deserves criticism for how he handled a number of things but based on 2019, it’s clear that Gruden had bigger plans.
While the team still missed the playoffs in Gruden’s second year, they won three more games and accumulated loads of promising young talent. It seemed like everybody was miserable in 2018. The team only won four games and was frequently embarrassed by bad teams. Now, the players seem happy to be there and there’s a lot of excitement around the franchise.
Jihad Ward does sound like a bitter ex-lover when talking about the Raiders, but he hasn’t done anything to prove that he’s not a massive second-round bust. However, the Raiders have proven that they can turn things around. 2018 is a distant memory for this team as they head into Las Vegas for 2020.