There’s no point in sugar-coating it: Jon Gruden’s first year back with the Raiders in 2018 was a total disaster. He took over for the well-liked Jack Del Rio and traded away the team’s best player in Khalil Mack. That move set the tone for the season and the team clearly had major issues going forward. During the season, Gruden sent away a couple of key starters, which left a sense of dread around the team.
One of the players that didn’t last long under Gruden was defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin. According to Andy Patton of Seahawks Wire, Irvin did not enjoy his experience with the Raiders and called Gruden “crazy.”
This isn’t the first time Irvin has made his poor experience in Oakland known. He reportedly was shouting “I’m free” at practice for the Atlanta Falcons shortly after he left the Raiders. It seemed like he enjoyed his early stint with the team, but things definitely soured towards the end.
How Gruden Was Able to Turn Things Around
Based on that 2018 season, it looked like the Gruden-led Raiders were headed for disaster. There was very little to get excited about after that showing. However, the team brought in Mike Mayock to serve as general manager and he helped put together the most impressive Raider draft class in recent memory.
They were quickly able to turn things around in 2019 and won three more games than they did in 2018. It’s clear that Gruden needed to mold the team in his image. He had to cut loose many Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie holdovers and bring in people and players he could trust.
Due to the fact that the Raiders had to move on from many veterans, they had to rely on young players. The move paid off handsomely for the team. Gruden made a career of getting the most out of veterans and wasn’t known for being great with rookies. However, relying on young guys is what made the Raiders better last year. There was a lot of worry about whether or not Gruden could still be an effective coach after his first season back in the NFL, but 2019 proved that he still has plenty left to give.
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Will Raiders Improve Further in 2020?
Two things can be true at once. The Raiders could be a better team, but still not see an improvement in their win total. Every team in their division got better this offseason, so the AFC West won’t be a cakewalk at all. However, it’s very hard to imagine that the Raiders don’t at least win eight games in 2020.
There are still question marks on the defense, but the offense should be one of the best in the NFL. While cornerback is still a red flag, the team should at least be a little better on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders were 6-4 at one point last season and almost made the playoffs. They should find themselves in the playoff race towards the end of the year once again.