Raiders’ Hunter Renfrow Had to Disobey Jon Gruden’s Wishes to Breakout

jon gruden

Getty Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.

It was clear early on that the Las Vegas Raiders found a steal when they drafted Hunter Renfrow in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The wide receiver out of Clemson didn’t look the part of an NFL wide receiver but all he did was make plays. He quickly impressed in offseason workouts and training camp but the start to his career was lackluster.

He didn’t break over 30 receiving yards in any of his first six games and just wasn’t making much of an impact despite being a starter. Renfrow eventually turned things around and put together a strong rookie campaign. He’s improved every year he’s been in the league and was even elected to the Pro Bowl for his work last season.

Renfrow isn’t the type to throw anybody under the bus but he did have an explanation for why he started off so slowly.

“We played in London my rookie year, the fifth game of the year and then we had the bye week. I had won the starting job, but I really wasn’t playing well. I think I had like 6 or 7 targets and like one catch. At Clemson if you threw to me I wanted to catch the ball and I remember going back home that bye week and thinking ‘alright, this ain’t working, I’m going to have to do it my way.’ “Renfrow said on The Players Club Podcast.

“I know coach [Jon] Gruden wants me to run it like this. I know they want me to run it like this, but I’m going to be out of the league in about a couple games if I keep doing it like that. I’m terrible,” Renfrow continued. “And so I didn’t want to look back in regret and say ‘oh, I was trying to please them so much and do it this certain way.’”

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Renfrow Had to Find Right Balance

Those comments from Renfrow are quite interesting. Gruden was certainly rigid in his coaching style and he ran the offense. The fact that Renfrow was able to recognize as a rookie that he wasn’t getting coached the right way is impressive. While he did have to disobey his coach, it wasn’t malicious. He just wanted to make sure that he’d have a long career in the NFL.

“Obviously there were parameters and I didn’t want to go against what they were saying too much, but I remember going home that bye week and sitting in the tree stand hunting a little bit, taking some time off and just thinking ‘I’m not going to regret this,” Renfrow said. “I’m going to go out there and I’m go to do it my way to an extent.’ Obviously, there is a coaching balance. I’m going to respect what they say. I’m going to do about how they say it, but I’m going to just put some tweaks here and there. And so that was kind of my moment where I kind of woke up and started playing some good football.”

Renfrow Now One of NFL’s Best WRs

Renfrow taking things into his own hands was the best move he could’ve made. There was hype surrounding him going into his rookie year after training camp but he just wasn’t impressive. He’s now considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 10th best wide receiver in the league.

Renfrow was rated higher than big names like A.J. Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and D.K. Metcalf. He can longer just be considered a very good slot receiver. He should only get better under new head coach Josh McDaniels, who is known for getting big years out of his slot receivers.

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