Category Archives: Column

Veteran versus Youth movements in Oakland

Listen, you don’t go and buy a new car if you love what you have. The Raiders didn’t draft Arden Key or sign Tank Carridine in free agency because they loved what they had at defensive end with Mario Edwards Jr. They didn’t draft Mo Hurst and PJ Hall because they loved what they saw from Justin Ellis, Eddie Vanderdoes or Treyvon Hester on the inside.

Further, you don’t go out and buy an old car after you just got a new car. In this analogy, it doesn’t make any sense why Oakland signed veterans Ahtyba Rubin or Frostee Rucker after the draft. Clearly, the Raiders want to give Hall, Key and Hurst time to develop. I’m all for veterans like Rucker and Rubin teaching these guys how to become professionals and winners. However, that is not Gruden’s mindset.

Gruden prefers veterans. Sure, he’ll let the best players play but the only reason why he signed these aging veterans was because he thought they could compete for rotation and starting spots today.

Moreover, the Raiders didn’t re-sign Reggie Nelson and add Marcus Gilchrist because they felt the young trio Obi Melifonwu, Shalom Luani and Karl Joseph could handle leading the secondary. Don’t be surprised if the first two veterans start over the other guys despite the playing time and draft capital the Raiders invested in them early.

This phenomenon is happening throughout the Raiders roster. Oakland brought in veterans Leon Hall and Shareece Wright because they weren’t comfortable with Dexter McDonald or Antonio Hamilton as depth at corner. They even brought in Daryl Worley and Rashaan Melvin to challenge last year’s first round pick Gareon Conley for the lead CB role. Nick Nelson was drafted as the last piece to the complicated secondary picture.

At linebacker too, the Raiders signed veterans Emmanuel Lamur, Tahir Whitehead and Derrick Johnson. They didn’t bring in that sort of experience to let it sit behind developmental prospects like Marquel Lee, Nicholas Morrow or even rookie Azeem Victor.

The point is, there is a lot of smoke about how half of these guys won’t make the roster because of their age. I’m not buying that.

You don’t add an old car to your garage to take up room for the new cars you already got in your lineup. You buy that old car because it offers you value and an experience that even a new car smell won’t give you.

Thus, don’t be surprised if you see older players playing over younger players during Gruden’s first year. Signing guys like Nelson, Lamur, Whitehead, Johnson, Wright, Gilchrist, Rubin, Rucker, Carridine, and even Melvin and Worley was about more than just a culture or price tag.

The Raiders brought these veterans in because Gruden believes they believe they can push for playing time. He isn’t going to care how much draft capital he has invested or how much development the previous regime put into any given prospect. That’s great if the Raiders win early and often.

It only gets complicated if the Raiders aren’t a serious contender. Then, fans and executives are going to push to develop young players and stop wasting reps on guys who are probably at the end of the road.

Moreover, what do all of these veteran signings tell us about our young players? Clearly, Hall, Hurst and Key aren’t as ready as they would’ve hoped. They wouldn’t have signed all those veterans if any of them were ready to be more than situational depth. They’re probably not in love with any of the last regime’s projects like Ellis, Edwards Jr., Vanderdoes or Hester either.

The same goes in the secondary. If they were confident in the health of Conley, Joseph and Melifonwu would they add Wright, Gilchrist, Nelson, Worley and Melvin to the mix. Linebacker has a similar impact. I’m sure Gruden gave guys like Johnson, Whitehead and Lamur some reassurance they would be in the mix to play in Oakland which is why they wanted to come here too.

Ultimately, yes a lot of these veterans are good enough to start and get some serious run. However, that is the scariest part. That speaks to the talent on this roster as a whole if all these aging veterans are the best the Raiders will field. Let’s not act like any of them really had a long line of suitors.

Plus, what does that say to the confidence of our young players? How are they going to feel getting passed up by some old veteran every day? How will they deal with sitting on the shelf and collecting dust? Will it inspire them or disengage them? Will they be able to develop in practice if they don’t have gametime reps?

I guess that is what Gruden wants to see. He wants to see what young players step up and beat out the veterans on the rosters as well as what players aren’t moved by the added competition in front or behind them in position drills.

Still, it is a big risk. Unlike cars staying off the road, prospects don’t keep their value by not performing. It is also a different approach than the last few Raiders regimes which have relied on young players over players. They’ve gambled on giving drafted and undrafted rookies a shot to prove themselves on gamedays instead of going with a slew veterans.

Obviously, that approach hasn’t groomed anything but a mediocre defense. Hence, the new approach is welcomed by many in the Silver and Black.

Nonetheless, I’m skeptical to the approach until I see exactly how much gas all these veterans have and where is the development of our young players. Preseason will give me the first answers to these questions.

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Grading the Raiders 2018 Draft class

It’s easy to give the Raiders a middle of the road grade for the 2018 NFL Draft. Their draft has a high amount of risk but they managed to find some good value propositions in the middle round.

The biggest takeaway from the Raiders 2018 NFL Draft is that you cannot grade it in a vacuum. You got to look at the bigger picture considering this is Jon Gruden’s first time heading the NFL Draft in a decade. He and Reggie McKenzie made some selections that were gambles and they reached for players but you can’t get caught up in each pick. Look at the draft class as a whole and you’ll be far less disappointed

Team Needs

Oakland specifically addressed the trenches. Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker were the tackles selected in the first three rounds. Not surprising, considering Vandal Alexander is starting the season suspended, Donald Penn is over 30 and been hurt the past two seasons and the RT position has been a joke the past two seasons. Oakland needed some tackle help and hopefully, they found it. The Raiders also took defensive tackle PJ Hall and edge Arden Key to infuse some disruption along the defensive line.

Miller was inconsistent in college. Key has Off-field issues. Hall and Parker are underrated prospects who will need some time adjusting to the change in speed and strength at the NFL level. However, that’s the case with most of these picks.

Sixth round pick and linebacker Azeem Victor is another high-risk player. Victor had an off1field DUI and there are also questions about his speed and size in the NFL. Then, there’s Nick Nelson who is recovering from an off-field injury. Both LB and DB were some of the Raiders biggest needs but they waited until the last part of the draft.

Oakland’s biggest draft needs are addressed to an extent. That depends on how ready these players are to contribute on Day One.

Playmakers

Above all else, the Raiders needed to find playmakers on both sides of the ball in this draft. On offense, that meant finding big-play threats. On defense, that meant sacks and picks.

They found a player like Maurice Hurst who can develop into an inside playmaker on the defensive line. He can get sacks. Hall and Key can too. Thus, I can give the team a pass for not selecting Harold Landry when they had a chance in the second round.

However, picks are another story. Nick Nelson is a nice prospect but he had zero picks in college. The Raiders need a defensive back who can take the ball away because we all remember how miserable it was not having a pick through more than half the season. For context, Oakland passed on CB/Safety Josh Jackson as well as safeties Josh Jackson and Justin Reid who would’ve given the Raiders some playmakers in the defensive backfield.

Moreover, they waited until the last round to select an offensive skill player. They took Hall three picks before Derrius Guice. Guice is considered a copy of Marshawn Lynch and he would have been the perfect heir to Beast Mode. The LSU product is a balanced runner and pass catcher with first-round ability who may haunt the Raiders.

Don’t forget the Raiders traded a third-round pick to get Martavis Bryant. That’s literally the pickup that saved this draft class from a playmaking standpoint.

Value

You could argue the Raiders took Miller and Parker way too high. They were probably the most overdrafted of this class, but the tackle position was bad. It makes sense that Oakland took these picks. P.J. Hall was a little high of a selection too especially since he’s from a small school. However, there were rumors of him getting selected that high even with other good d-linemen on the board. With his film and body type, the Raiders get a pass for making the selection.

Added, the Raiders found Arden Key, Marcell Ateman and Maurice Hurst way lower than most expected. Those three picks balanced out the value proposition of this draft class. Victor and Nelson were selected at the spots they were expected so that makes the Raiders even in terms of finding value.

Culture

We were all looking at this draft to see how Gruden would build his team. It is clear he wants to start with a physical team on both lines.

Further, it is clear that Gruden’s regime doesn’t care where a player plays or what they did as long as they can play. That is evident by the off-field red flags from Key and Victor, the injury concerns of Nelson and Hurst and the small school pedigrees of Hall and Parker. Even Miller had questions about his consistency and Ateman had questions about his speed.

Ultimately, Gruden wants to take players he thinks can compete regardless of the context they come with. He also isn’t afraid of getting away from conventional thinking. Guden isn’t afraid to let draft picks compete with each other or replace a prominent player from the previous regime. We knew that already but now it is confirmed.

The Bigger Picture

Hopefully, Gruden is right and all these players compete. He doesn’t have a lot of time to wait for players to develop, deal with off-field concerns or let players get healthy. Gruden needs this rookie class to step-in and compete as well as provide depth now and into the future.

Either way, the Raiders found at least two starters in the NFL Draft. Hurst and Hall will both compete for starter roles on the interior defensive line. Parker and Miller will compete for starting roles on the offensive line. More than likely, only one rookie will start on either line.

Not to mention, Key and Ateman can compete for starting time immediately. That means the Raiders got two starters and four key depth players. They got Victor and Nelson who might compete down the line and Bryant is an added bonus.

Big picture, the Raiders had a solid draft class by balancing out some of their earliest reaches with the best player on the board towards the end of the draft.

The point is, if you look at the Raiders from a holistic approach you will find yourself much more pleased.

The Raiders get a C+ for this year’s draft but it can easily turn into a B+ if these guys start immediately.

 

Oakland Raiders outlook for Round Two and Round One reaction

What are the Raiders best options in day two of the NFL draft?

You can’t talk about the second round without talking about the first round.Kolton Miller was the Raiders Day One pick. It’s surprising since Miller would usually be a Day Two pick. However, this year’s tackle class is so bad that Miller going this high makes sense. He’s the consensus 2-4 ranked tackle throughout this draft process. Miller brings the athleticism to play left tackle down the line. He has the UCLA production to compete for play at RT immediately. The biggest knock on Miller is his consistency and toughness. Not to mention, his QB Josh Rosen was often hurt and the entire UCLA team under achieved.Either way, the Raiders filled a need at the top of the draft. They get a player who had the potential to improve both the running and passing offense.

Trading back

That wasn’t even the biggest surprise of Day One. Oakland trades back five spots and got a third and fifth round pick in the exchange. They sent that third round pick to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant.

Bryant is a legit deep threat. He’s an explosive option to have as your second or third receiver. Bryant is an upgrade over Seth Roberts.

However, the Raiders essentially let the Cardinals into the top ten and handed them a franchise QB for an added third round pick and fifth round pick. The Packers moved back 13 spots, got a first round pick and then flipped that 27 pick and some more draft capital to get the 18 pick. Green Bay got their guy Jaire Alexander and an added first rounder for next year. Oakland couldn’t do this? Maybe, the organization shouldn’t hint at trading back all offseason which gave away their leverage.

Round two

Either way, the Raiders still have some great players to consider in round two. Harold Landry makes sense as a dynamic pass rusher. Derrius Guice is a physical and balanced runner. Both of those players could be steals at this point.

There’s rumors that Oakland could take another offensive tackle to continue the rebuild of their line. Connor Williams, Tyrell Crosby and Will Hernandez are some of the top offensive linemen left but they’re more of guards in the NFL. Will Oakland reach for Brian O’Neil, Geron Christian or Orlando Brown who are more traditional tackles?

Defensive back makes sense for the Raiders too. Justin Reid and Ronnie Harrison make sense as versatile, athletic and productive safeties. Isaiah Oliver makes sense as an instant nickel back with a chance to compete on the outside. Josh Jackson is a hybrid safety and corner who many thought would go in the first round.

Speaking of offense, Linebacker should also come into consideration. How about Malik Jefferson or Uchenna Nwosu?

Otherwise, Ronald Jones is a super shifty back and Nick Chubb is another back to consider.

There are also some tight ends like Mike Gesicki and Mark Andrews. They’re dual threat TEs who might be gone after this round considering Hayden Hurst went in the first round.

This is a very interesting draft. The market is much different than people expected especially since Cleveland threw everyone off with Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall.

Added, Oakland proved they’ll make an unpopular pick. Gruden clearly has a vision for this team and it isn’t yet clear. I’d assume he wants to be physical upfront and take his shots deep which has always been the Raiders forward. Therefore, I’m leaning towards a RB in round two. Guice makes too much sense as the heir to Marshawn Lynch this year and in the future. He’s a physical runner and does a ton of community work.

If he’s gone, Oakland needs a playmaker on the defensive side. They need to look for sacks or picks. Landry or Jackson makes sense for that spot since they’ve been among CFB’s elite the past season. Oliver, Jefferson and Nwosu wouldn’t upset me either though. Realistically, we can’t rule out another trade back either. Anything is possible especially if talent keeps falling. The Raiders have the assets in the fifth and six round to pair with their second to move back into the second and grab a third or fourth rounder in the process. We will see what happens tonight!

Who will the Raiders select on Day One of the NFL Draft

Who will the Raiders Draft in the 2018 NFL Draft?

I don’t think the Silver and Black even know. The dynamic between Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie is still too new. This is there first draft together and it will be a trial to how they work together and find prospects that fit Gruden’s scheme and culture. As we know, Gruden brings a unique culture and scheme that is different than any coach McKenzie has drafted before.

Either way, rumors and speculation is that the Raiders will trade back in the NFL Draft. They’ve both hinted towards it all offseason. There is even smoke about them trading up to get Bradley Chubb. That isn’t likely since Oakland loves their draft picks.

Still, Chubb is the guy if he is there at No. 10. The same goes for Saquan Barkley. The talent is too real to pass on no matter what. Their availability depends on if teams are really buying the QB hype.

Nonetheless, Cubb and Barkley won’t be around and it is expected that the Raiders will be considering top defensive prospects like Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward, Tremaine Edmunds, Vita Vea, Marcus Davenport and Roquan Smith.

Fitzpatrick, James and Ward are all top talents but their positions are deep in this draft class. Oakland can wait til later, especially since they’ve taken corners and safeties in the past couple of drafts. The same can be said for selecting Vea or Davenport. Both are great talents but the Raiders already invest draft capitol at their positions.

Edmunds and Smith make the most sense based on need. The Raiders have needed backers for years. With Bruce Irvin converting to pass rusher, the need is even bigger. Both or neither may be there depending on how many QBs and DBs go in the top-10. Oakland may consider trading out if both Smith and Edmunds are there or gone. Harold Landry is my darkhorse due to his athleticism. He might be a little too raw to go this high though.

Nonetheless, don’t rule out an offensive player. It would be a very Raiders move to take an offensive player when all the experts think you’re going defense. Oakland put the last two first rounders on offense and they might invest this one in some help for Derek Carr and Gruden.

Donald Penn ain’t getting any younger and right tackle has been a joke. This team is built from the inside out too.

Thus, we’ve been hearing rumors about Kolton Miller or Mike McGlinchey being the No. 10 pick. Both are athletic and productive enough to play either tackle position. McGlinchey is a little tougher so he projects as a starting right tackle sooner. However, Miller has more athleticism which could make him a better LT down the line.

Taking a tackle makes sense since this team is built inside out. It’s an easy way to help Carr, boost the running and passing game. This class isn’t that deep at the position which is why they may reach a bit for a tackle like Miller or McGlinchey who might be better values a little later in the first round.

Speaking of reaches, Calvin Ridley and Derius Guice should also come into consideration at No. 10. This is especially true if the top defensive players on the Raiders boards are gone. However, neither Ridley or Guice play positions of glaring need. They don’t have the elite athleticism to really even be taken this high but they’re proven gamers who have great production for huge programs.

Ridley is a smooth receiver who can do a bit of everything. He is Amari Cooper light. Meanwhile, Guice is a physical beast who can run and catch with anger. He is a Marshawn Lynch light. That makes both Ridley and Guice great scheme and culture fits even if they aren’t the top talents overall or fill a position of need.

Added, the WR and RB classes are deep but Ridley and Guice are definitely in the top tier with a big gap ahead of their competition. It would not surprise me if Gruden wanted either of these guys. There is the slight chance they fall into the second or the Raiders can get them later.

Ultimately, the Raiders can do any number of things on Draft Day. I’d be happy if they took any of the aforementioned players. McGlinchey or Edmunds would be my pick based on need. Ridley or Guice would be my pick based on playmaking. Roquan and Davenport make sense for value. Miller and Landry have the upside to go that high. Ward, Fitz and James wouldn’t hurt the team at all.

Oakland is expected to pick around 6:40 PM PST so make sure you tune in.

The Raiders already made their big splash

If you expected a marquee free agency signing or hoped for one like I did, you’re real disappointed with this week’s haul. It’s understandable since the Raiders signed a 33-year-old Jordy Nelson, four defensive starters from non-playoff teams, three reserve skill players you’ve never heard of and a long snapper.

This really shouldn’t be surprising since Oakland prefers to build through the draft. Plus, the Raiders already made their major move in free agency. That was signing head coach Jon Gruden.

Adding Gruden won’t impact the salary cap but it’s the marquee move of the free agent. If you were expecting a big name with dollars to upstage that you were setting yourself up for failure.

Yes, there’s no Suh, Honeybadger or Tru coming despite whatever source said that might happen.

Instead, Oakland will try to grab impact players in the draft. They’ll bank on Gruden coaching up mediocre plays. They will hope a new staff wit structure and scheme will help this team improve naturally.

Hopefully, there right. The regime will need to bat 1000 in the NFL Draft if they hope to construct a Super Bowl roster.

Plus, this team needs to win immediately as they’re facing relocation in a season or two. If this team stumbles out of the gate, expect a ton of hostile fans at home. They will cite this free agency and last season as examples of McKenzie letting them down.

Again, the hope is McKenzie and Gruden are right that they can coach up some average NFL talent. That these veterans are hungry and ready to buy into Gruden’s schemes.

That means all we can do is what and see. Trust the process, no matter how tired of it you are.

The Marcus Peters Effect

Marcus Peters got traded to the Los Angeles Rams which should make them one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For Raiders fans, addition by subtraction is what they say when a three-time pro bowler leaves your division. However, when it is a 25-year-old, Oakland-native traded for a second-rock pick there are some serious questions about why?

The narrative is that Peters was a a cancer in the locker room including his time at Washington. He had an altercation with the Raiders in 2017. He almost got kicked out for throwing a referee flag last season. Still, Peters did not have a problem with the Chiefs. They’re moving in a new direction as a team anyways.

Regardless, Peters is a top talent in the NFL. The 28 teams who passed on Peters did themselves a disservice including the Raiders. Finding a second round player who can instantly impact games likes Peters is a long shot. It’s laughable to think that was the highest comepensation.

Peters is an athlete who changes games with his abilities to create turnovers. Oakland desperately needs that kind of impact in the back end as their consistently ranked towards the bottom in pass defense and turnovers.

As for the Raiders, their trade history is non-existent under Reggie McKenzie. It would have been nice for them to take a chance on a player like Peters for a second round investment. Their history of second round draft picks under Reggie McKenzie like Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. and Menelik Watson have not had half the impact Peters has had or will have.

Additionally, Oakland will look to add a corner in the draft or free agency. Trading for Peters would’ve fulfilled a need in less time than a rookie and for less money than free agency.

Of course, the Raiders and Chiefs are unlikely to make a trade since their both in the AFC West. Peters’ questionable incidents and upcoming payday also make him a risky investment. Still, the Raiders should’ve considered the Oakland native and proven commodity.

It makes sense that the division rivals couldn’t come to a agreement. However, the Raiders should not have let an all-pro corner in his prime slip from their grips. It was a move  that was unlikely for the Raiders.

Nonetheless, it is disappointing that they officially let this trade happen under their nose. Oh well, I guess we will all watch Peters dominate as a Ram. Hopefully, the Raiders can get their own corner position filled out now.

Raiders offseason 2018: More questions than answers

It’s impossible to predict what Jon Gruden and the Raiders will do this offseason. Insiders or anyone else is claiming they know is fooling themselves.

I don’t think Gruden even knows what he’s gonna do. Gruden hasn’t coached a game in nearly a decade. The game has changed exponentially since then. He wouldn’t be smart to think within his own constraints. Good coaches adjust and adapt. Gruden will need to do that no matter what plans are already on his drawing board.

Beyond that, he’s gotta adapt to the Reggie McKenzie Raiders. This time around, Oakland has a semi-regular organization and structure. However, McKenzie has built the organization in his way. How will Reggie’s roster mesh with Gruden’s vision? What parts of Gruden’s vision are worth compromise? Can the two egos operate in cohesion? How long will that take?

Sure, Gruden is getting a $10 million bag not to get the guys who he wants but the Raiders have made progress under McKenzie. How much does Gruden respect that? My bet is they will go with the path of least resistance immediately. At least while they’re trying to stir the trip towards Las Vegas.

That’s another issue. Relocation is hanging over the Raiders in the next year or two. We can’t act like that isn’t an issue. Players and administration uprooting their lives in a year or two. Some might buy in but others might struggle to adapt. That’s a variable when recruiting free agents, even if money talks.

Plus, Gruden doesn’t have the legendary Al Davis lingering over him anymore. That could very well be a relief but Chuckie doesn’t have a legendary football mind to lean on anymore. He doesn’t have a scapegoat at the top.

How will Gruden handle Mark Davis being his new boss? Even if the two are friends, how will their relationship handle the new dynamics? Can Mark Davis effectively push and motivate Gruden?

Gruden isn’t coaching the same game he coached a decade ago. This isn’t the same roster. This isn’t the same organization. These aren’t the same fans either.

Sure, the Black Hole raised Gruden. They will just as easily spit him out. Not because they don’t care about him. They will do it because they deserve a winner. Gruden is taking the savior title and Oakland will be on him to deliver. If he fails, he will fail the black hole and the entire city.

Thus, anyone expecting the same old Gruden is kidding themselves. He went to Tampa and did broadcasting. He better be different.

The Oakland Raiders don’t need that same Gruden, they need a better one. They need someone who can handle coaching and navigating all these different variables.

Gruden’s got a long way to go. He’s gotta adapt to new rules in a new game. New organization structure too. It isn’t going to be as easy as him picking up where he left off.

The only thing we should expect from Gruden is something totally different. We got to wait and see. Wait and watch as we see the new Gruden style and scheme develop in a new context.

That’s the exciting thing about this new era. No one really knows what will happen. No one knows if this will be a success or failure. We can’t rely on Gruden’s past data because that was a long time ago. We can’t rely on the Raiders most recent history because they’ve never had a coach like Gruden.

Gruden will shake up the entire organization and the entire process. That begins this offseason. We will see how he adapts his scheme and style to the new game. We will see how this roster adapts to him.

I, for one, can not wait to see this all unfold. I can’t wait to see Gruden handle all these variables. I can’t wait for the offseason to really unfold so we will have a better idea of how Gruden and the Raiders will adapt in the new era.

 

Gruden Era Can’t Trust the Process

The Oakland Raiders blew up the process by firing Jack Del Rio and hiring Jon Gruden. You don’t hire Gruden from the booth, assemble of group of experienced and expensive assistants and pay Del Rio off to win a Division title. The expectations for Gruden and company is a Super Bowl ASAP.

Of course, that means the Raiders will need to fill their roster with Super Bowl level talent. They have glaring needs for elite talent and depth across the roster. They could wait for some draft picks from the previous regime to develop but that was the process that failed them in 2017.

The Raiders need to get top level talent in the draft, obviously, but they need to do that in free agency as well. Gruden has been out of coaching for a while so he doesn’t have a pipeline of active players ready to go. He’s got to get a new generation of players to buy into his legends of the 2000s.

Del Rio needed to attract free agents too. He did to some extent. They found budget guys like Perry Riley Jr., Reggie Nelson, David Amerson, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch and Navarro Bowman. They got top guys like Keleci Osemele and Rodney Hudson. They capitalized on second tier free agents like Sean Smith, Dan Williams, Donald Penn and Bruce Irvin.

Now, Gruden has got to take it a step further. In the past, general manager Reggie McKenzie has been hesitant to pay older free agents or handover big contracts. That will have to change in the Gruden era. They will need take some short cuts and that means signing the top free agents.

We’re seeing it in Jacksonville. The Jaguars spent dollars on elite free agents. They also drafted well and developed those players. Now, they’ve got a deep roster with veterans and young players. Oakland needs to follow a similar format.

On the other hand, we’ve seen teams like Giants sign free agents and take steps backwards. That proves the Raiders need a balance of draft picks and free agents to improve their depth.


When Reggie McKenzie took over this organization, he tore down the roster by releasing underperforming players. He hired Dennis Allen to lead the rebuild.

A few years later, McKenzie started reconstruction. He hired an experienced coach like Del Rio. He started attracting under the radar free agents that offered the most return on their investment. He found veterans willing to buy-in and prove themselves.

Now, the Raiders will enter the re-tool part of the process. They have cornerstone players like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Amari Cooper to build around. They have veterans who have proved themselves like Osemele, Irvin, Hudson and others. Gruden will need to take this nucleus and mold into a true contender.

Gruden is tasked with getting this team an identity. He’s got some talent that he needs to get to buy into his vision. However, he’s going to need to get some more talent around them that fits his image. This is how the team takes the next step.

It means getting rid of players who don’t fit the character or play style that Gruden needs. Those who don’t buy in or fit in will need to be replaced.

That means bringing in talent that elevates the quality of the roster and is willing to fill specific needs. They need elite talented players willing to buy into Gruden’s image of the Raiders. Oakland will need to spend on elite players that compliment the nucleus they already have and will fit Gruden’s identity.

The Raiders can’t waste anymore time waiting for players to develop. They can’t keep players on scholarship. They can’t squeeze round pegs into Gruden’s image.

Hiring Gruden didn’t just speed up the process. Combine that with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in two years and the entire process is blown up.

Oakland is taking a huge gamble on Gruden. They’re taking a huge gamble moving to Las Vegas. Oakland needs a Super Bowl ASAP.

The Jaguars and Titans both won a playoff game before the Silver and Black. If that is not an indicator that the team needs to speed up the process, what is?

The Raiders can’t stop gambling now. They got to gamble by spending money on specific, elite free agents. Sorry McKenzie, but your entire process is blown up. Oakland can’t wait for you draft picks to develop. You gotta open up that checkbook and take some shortcuts to help Gruden build his identity.

$100 million later, Jon Gruden is officially official head coach of the Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders officially got their white whale. They gave Jon Gruden $100 million over 10 years so the ESPN commentator would return to the sideline. ruden’s assistants are expected to be heavily compensated as well.

It is rumored they’re hiring Rams QB coach Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator and Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will hold the same positions in Oakland.

Why Gruden’s return is good

Every Raiders fan remembers the last time Gruden wore Raiders colors as a coach. It was the infamous Tuck Rule game. If his return reverses that curse, then I’m all for it.Other fans, look forward to the nostalgia of Gruden getting the offense back in shape and making plenty of great sound bites. If the coordinator rumors are true that is great too. Guenther is a true 4-3 guy who will finally give this defense an identity. They won’t hide behind a hybrid scheme. They won’t get pushed around either. Gruden is also a proclaimed offensive guru. That means it will be on him to get Amari Cooper and Derek Carr back on track after both regressed in 2017.Ultimately, the move is a signal from Raiders owner Mark Davis. You don’t give that kind of money to Gruden and eat Jack Del Rio’s contract if you aren’t committed to winning a championship as soon as possible. The Raiders have up to two years left in Oakland and it is clear they want to make a playoff push before that. Having an organization committed to a winning culture is always a good thing. It’s a move that should lift the morale of fans too.

Why Gruden part two could get bad

Remember the last time Mark Davis made a move that fans loved but everyone else questioned. That was the addition of Marshawn Lynch a year after retirement. The jury is still out on that move.Don’t forget it was also Davis who hired Del Rio. Del Rio was a great hire at the time but that turned sour quick.Gruden will have even higher expectations. Ownership will expect a significant playoff push before they leave Oakland. If not, Reggie McKenzie could get his pink slip next. Speaking of that, it is rumored that Gruden may want to make some additions to the personnel department too. McKenzie will stay onboard for the interim. However, it remains to be seen if he will stay with Gruden long term. Then there’s the whole matter of Las Vegas. The Raiders are taking on a lot of debt to make the move happen. They’ll need Gruden to make the team into a winner before, during and after the move. The success of the relocation to a smaller city and new sports town depends on the Raiders on-field-product.Additionally, there’s a huge elephant in the room. Gruden hasn’t called a game in nearly a decade. Certainly, he’s analyzed the game and become aware of new trends as an outsider. However, that’s completely different than leading men and putting together a game plan.On top of that, he’ll lead on Greg Olsen as offensive coordinator. Olsen held the same title with the Raiders during Carr’s rookie year. That’s good for continuity but let’s remember that is the year Carr earned his check down Derek nickname. It also reminds me of the time we rehashed Gregg Knapp. It can’t be much worse than that. Olsen did help Jared Goff develop this year. He probably learned some modern west coast offense from Sean McVay too. But Olsen didn’t do anything in his second stint with Jacksonville. Olsen’s offenses have been average throughout his career. Don’t forget that. Otherwise, John DeFillipo was the QB coach that year and the year before. He’s the real attributed mastermind behind Carr’s rookie year and the year that brought us Terelle Pryor. Except DeFillipo will probably get a head coaching job and not return to Oakland with Olsen. Hopefully, Gruden and Olsen don’t expect to dink and dunk their way to a title in 2018. If that’s the case, expect Raiders fans to turn their morale real quick. On both sides of the ball, the Raiders are going to have to add some guys to help the transition to Gruden’s regime? If it works, is to be determined…

The verdict

Applaud the Raiders for doing what they had to do and gambling on Gruden seems like the sexy bet. It won’t come without challenges because all coaching changes result in growing pains. Nonetheless, it was clear they had to move on from Jack Del Rio. Del Rio looked old and tired as the season went on. He never could find the answers during the games or in post game press conferences. There was a ton of weird drama from Lynch, Carr, the defense and the offensive line. Del Rio couldn’t keep it under control. Reports also said Del Rio wasn’t staying as late as much either. It seems like Del Rio always found someone to blame besides himself. He could never build a defensive culture or limit penalties during his entire tenure. He couldn’t maximize his talent in 2017. Del Rio wasn’t going to persuade any free agents moving forward either.Further, all this offseason lockerrrom snitching proves the Raiders lost their camaraderie. It proves that they weren’t responding to Del Rio. Raiders fans saw that as the team lacked motivation and often looked beaten during games. This prestigious franchise seemed like they were losing the physical battle each week. It was time to move on. Props to Del Rio though. He took getting fired from his dream job in stride. Del Rio got the news directly after a road game but still delivered his post game pressed. I can only imagine the emotions of losing your dream job. As fans, we all dream of doing the job that Del Rio worked his way into. He probably had the same dreams as a kid in the bay. His family and him also did a ton for the community. Del Rio built a foundation and moved the culture forward. Hopefully, Gruden can get the Raiders to the next step. This would be like the Warriors firing Marc Jackson and hiring Steve Kerr. In that same comparison, Gruden has got to win and win fast. He’s got to get this team contending for serious titles each year. He’s got to get a couple of Super Bowls over the next ten years. He’s got to get one with this core group, preferably before the team leaves its home. At the very least, Gruden needs to win a Super Bowl in four years or this could be a huge embarrassment for every one involved.Gruden has got to be more than just an upgrade over Del Rio. Gruden has got to turn the offense around and get the defense playing hard again. He’s got to sell tickets in Oakland and Las Vegas. He’s gotta coexist with Davis and McKenzie to get quality draft picks and feee agents. Can Gruden do all that? That is to be determined.

Raider Nation Rise

If you’re anything like me, than you’re a Los Angeles Raiders fan disappointed you’re not attending the game that is the closest your team has ever been to you in your lifetime.

Nonetheless, the Raiders need a win today. It doesn’t matter that a win will earn them a less important draft pick or another year with a mediocre coaching staff. Oakland needs this win for its fans.

The Raider Nation paying three times regular ticket value to black out the StubHub center deserve a win. The Raiders fans in Oakland facing the fact that they have one more season with their team deserve a win. Those of us who expected a Super Bowl battle deserve a win too.

Sure, all wins matter. This one matters a little more since the Raiders are returning to their second home. The Silver and Black won Lombardi trophies as the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders in LA. Raider Nation usually packs out Chargers games but this one means more since it’s on our home court.

It also means more cause the Raiders season is basically over. They have nothing to play for but their jobs and coaches jobs. Oh yeah, they have to play for those Raiders and fans who wear the emblem and colors with pride 365 days a year. Those of us wearing our gear in Week 17 with nothing to play for deserve this win. It’s time for the Raiders to play for their fans and it’s time for RaiderNation to rise.