The Oakland Raiders may have made the most significant move during the offseason with the hiring of former analyst Jon Gruden. Bringing in Gruden after the surprising firing of Jack Del Rio was not as much of a shock as his contract details were. The Raiders handed Gruden 10 years and $100 million to lead them back to prominence, and so far, nothing has gone as planned. Well, at least in the eyes of the fans.
As for Gruden, this may have been the plan from the beginning.
Gruden took over a Raiders’ team that two seasons ago was poised to make a serious run at the Super Bowl before QB Derek Carr went down with a season-ending injury. In 2017, the wheels fell off, and the Raiders missed the playoffs entirely. Did it call for changes? Yes, but not a head coaching one.
Instead of beefing up their defense, the Raiders made front office personnel changes which have led them to a 1-7 record and a Chucky Fire Sale. It began with the trade of LB Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for 2019 and 2020 first rounders and a conditional 2020 fifth round pick. At the time of that trade, the Raiders were still in the hunt so-to-speak. But, as the losses mounted, so did the frustration or the ego depending on who you ask.
This is where the Chip Kelly reference comes into play.
In 2013, Kelly took over as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had missed the playoffs the previous two seasons, but Kelly inherited a veteran team built by the departed Andy Reid. However, Kelly wanted the roster to resemble his image, and he began to trade or release players such as LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Hugh Douglas. The results, the Eagles faltered, and Kelly gave up and walked away.
After his departure, Howie Roseman was left to pick up the pieces, and two seasons later, the Eagles were raising the Lombardi Trophy. Will the same happen to the Oakland Raiders and Jon Gruden?
As I write this, it doesn’t seem possible. But another look will reveal that maybe, just maybe this was not only Gruden’s plan, but the organization’s all along. The firing of Del Rio would make sense if a rebuild were the case. Del Rio is a hard-nosed former player who coached the same way he played, with fire. Did his time run out in Oakland? No, but the Raiders have always lived for the nostalgic moments, and the hiring of Gruden is just another example.
Now, Gruden has to make good on their investment. But one of the biggest questions coming into this season was if he could handle today’s NFL?
In Year One of a 10-year deal, the Raiders have resembled the Cleveland Browns more than a team who was picked to win the Super Bowl just a few seasons ago. Instead, they will enter the 2019 NFL Draft with at least three first-round picks. And this is not counting what may happen in the offseason with Derek Carr. While Gruden has gobbled up picks like Thanos did Infinity Stones in Avengers: Infinity War, he now has the NFL at the palm of his hands.
But does he know what he’s doing?
Eagles’ fans believed in Chip Kelly. His high-flying offense, led by an unknown Nick Foles was making strides, and Gruden appears to be cut from the same cloth. But why a rebuild many are asking? Unlike Kelly and the Eagles, the Oakland Raiders are young. They’ve been going through a rebuild for quite sometime before Del Rio helped guide them to the light.
But with the big trades Jon Gruden pulled off this season, the Raiders may not be the laughingstock for too long. Well, it still depends if they pick the right talent. In any draft, no matter the sport, there are risks involved. Gruden can’t afford to miss. If he does, then losing Mack and Cooper will be for nothing. Having three picks in the first round means crap if your players bottom out.
Thanos had a plan just as Kelly did with the Eagles. Thanos goal was to rule over the galaxy. Kelly’s plan was his way or the highway. In Gruden’s case, he wants to implement both Thanos’ and Kelly’s tactics and make the Oakland Raiders the next dynasty. The funny thing about too much power is, it can also destroy you in the process. Just ask Thanos and Kelly.