The love affair between Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders fan could be over. After three-straight losing seasons, patience is wearing thin. Gruden is the only coach in the NFL to have three-straight losing seasons right now who hasn’t lost his job.
A series of questionable roster moves this offseason have only led to more people questioning the coach. The Raiders’ 2021 free agency has been hit and miss. The team has dismantled their offensive line and hasn’t made many notable signings. Longtime NFL insider Peter King decided that it was time to go after Gruden and suggest that his seat should be warming up.
The Raiders made one solid signing (wideout John Brown, for one year and $3.75 million) and two curious ones. With a franchise back, Josh Jacobs, in house already, Vegas paid $14.5 million for two seasons of a good back, Kenyan Drake. Also imported: a very curious player, Yannick Ngakoue, who is now on his fourth team in seven months. He talked his way out of Jacksonville, got traded twice in two months (to Minnesota and then Baltimore) and produced only moderately in either place, and got rewarded in a stressed cap period with $13 million a year from the Raiders. With seven years left on Gruden’s deal, I can’t imagine owner Mark Davis thinking of pulling the plug yet. But another disappointing year and Davis has got to start thinking about it.
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Gruden Has Made Big Mistakes
King’s criticisms of Gruden are valid. Whether or not you think he’s a great coach, there’s no denying that his latest stint with the Raiders has been a failure. He traded away the team’s best player in Khalil Mack when he first got there. With the extra money, he signed LaMarcus Joyner, Trent Brown, Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams to big contracts. None of those players are with the team anymore. He also got some draft picks and turned them into Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette and Bryan Edwards. Jacobs is a stud but the jury is still out on the other two. Trading Mack for a solid running back is not good value.
It’s clear that personnel is not where Gruden thrives. He’s still got a lot of skill as an offensive coach. He’s put together some excellent gameplans. However, he’s not an offensive coordinator. He’s the head coach and runs the whole show for the Raiders. Gruden needs to either loosen up his grip on the personnel side of things or he needs to change how he approaches the draft and free agency. If he keeps failing, Las Vegas will have to start thinking about making a change.
Gruden Has a Long Leash
While there are a number of fans who are already ready to see Gruden get the axe, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Owner Mark Davis loves the coach and he’s not shy about that fact. He gave him a 10-year contract for a reason.
Hiring Gruden was always supposed to be a long play but the Raiders need to start winning games. No matter how much faith Davis has in the coach, he’ll eventually start to sour on him if the team keeps losing. There’s evidence that Gruden can get it done. The Raiders have been close to the playoffs two years in a row. If he can get the team over the hump, then all will be forgiven and faith restored. Time will tell if that actually happens.