Jon Gruden’s failures early in his second Las Vegas Raiders tenure are becoming very apparent. With the news that Trent Brown is getting traded to the New England Patriots, the 2019 haul of high-priced free agents now looks like a complete disaster for the team. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown and LaMarcus Joyner were all handed massive contracts that offseason, and now none of them will be with the team in 2021.
While Mike Mayock is the general manager, Gruden deserves a ton of blame for the Raiders’ failures. He’s the man in charge and he has power over Mayock. Michael Lombardi was an executive with the Raiders during Gruden’s first tenure with the team. He recently appeared on The Pat McAfee Show and lit up the coach.
Lombardi even went so far as to say he’d “rather have 20 hours of root canals in one day than do” Mayock’s job. Obviously, the former executive is being dramatic but it is pretty telling that somebody who used to work closely with Gruden would throw him under the bus in such a brutal way.
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Gruden Has Too Much Power
Regardless of what anybody thinks of Lombardi, he’s not completely off base with his criticism of Gruden. He’s simply too powerful and he’s not good at the personnel side of things. Considering how poorly the Raiders have performed in free agency and the draft since 2018, it’s clear that the coach is doing a poor job.
When owner Mark Davis decided to give Gruden a $100 million contract, he also gave him free rein to do what he wants with the team. That’s a lot of power to give to a coach who hasn’t won more than nine games in a season since 2005. So far, the early returns haven’t been good. Gruden is the only coach in the NFL currently to have three straight non-winning seasons and still have a job. He has no excuses. The Raiders have let him do whatever he wants and he has failed.
2021 Could Be Make or Break
While Gruden has almost unlimited job security, he has to be feeling a lot of pressure right now. The Raiders would have to suffer a monumental collapse over the next couple of seasons for Davis to swallow his pride and fire Gruden. That’s probably not going to happen because he’s a competent coach.
However, he needs to give up some of his power when it comes to personnel. It remains to be seen if Mayock can get it done but he at least deserves a fair shot. Gruden is a good coach and should stick to what he knows. Unfortunately, he probably won’t. He’s in too deep now.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Raiders are doomed. The team went 8-8 last season and showed improvement. Even with another lackluster offseason, Las Vegas could feasibly get into the playoffs with nine or 10 wins. If Gruden can get the silver and black back into the playoffs, a lot of his prior failures will be forgiven. Whether or not he can build a consistent winner is the biggest question facing the team.