It appears the love affair with Jon Gruden is starting to sour for the Las Vegas Raiders fan base. There was a ton of hype when he was first brought back to the team and everybody knew it would take time for him to rebuild the team in his image. He’s now three years into his second stint with the Raiders and it appears he’s losing more fans than he’s gaining.
For the second straight year, the team started off 6-4 and have fallen apart down the stretch. If you go back and look at Gruden’s last year in Tampa Bay, the team started off 9-3 but lost the last four games and missed the playoffs. For whatever reason, Gruden teams seem to fall apart late in the season.
These collapses have led many to question the coach. Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd suggested after the recent loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that Gruden is overrated.
“The Raiders and Gruden are getting worse at the end of years,” Cowherd said on Friday. “Assuming the Raiders miss the playoffs, it’ll be the third time Jon Gruden has coached a team, started 6-3 and missed the playoffs. … Is it probable that Gruden’s an average coach, and he’s more media marketing maven than football genius?”
At times this season, Gruden has looked like a genius. He was able to beat the Chiefs and the Saints – two teams that could be playing in the Super Bowl this year. However, there are times that he looks out of touch. It’s probably still too early to suggest Gruden isn’t the right man for the job but it’s also fair to criticize the work he’s done so far.
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Gruden Addressed Controversial Play Call
Gruden is rightfully taking a lot of heat for some of his play-calling against the Chargers. The end of the first half of the game was a clinic in baffling play-calling. Despite that, the Raiders were still in a position to win at the end of the game. Gruden decided to make more questionable calls and kicked a field goal in overtime, which gave the ball back to a Chargers team the Raiders had no ability to stop. The coach explained the reasoning behind the decision.
“It was fourth-and-5,” Gruden said. “If we got a little bit closer, we would’ve thought about going for it, but it was fourth-and-5. … But if it was a little bit closer, I would’ve considered going for it. I know I went for it a few times earlier in the game, but to take the lead with three minutes left, I thought it was the play to make at that time.”
Gruden can make any excuse he wants but it was a bad call. At that point, kicking a field goal was just playing for a tie at best. A tie wouldn’t have helped them in the playoff race at all. The fact that the defense allowed the Chargers to score a touchdown in short order emphasized how bad the decision was.
Can Gruden Get It Done?
Gruden has made some serious mistakes, there’s no doubt about it. His playcalling has been really bad at times. However, he does deserve some credit for the job he’s done. Since he was traded by the team after the 2001 season, the Raiders have had four seasons in which they’ve won more than seven games and have only been to the playoffs twice.
There’s still a chance the Raiders get to eight or nine wins this year. They’ve only had one season over eight wins since 2002. While Raiders fans have every right to lose their patience, it was always going to take time to rebuild. The late-season collapses are incredibly frustrating but the team is headed in the right direction. Though they could end up with the same 7-9 record this season as they did last season, there’s no doubt this team is better than it was last year.
There will be some big changes this offseason. The team can dump the bloated contracts they gave to Tyrell Williams, LaMarcus Joyner and possibly more. They’ll also be able to bring in a new defensive coordinator. If the Raiders can nail this offseason and fix the defense, they will be a playoff team in 2021.