Just 10 short days ago, the Raiders were sitting at 3-0 and had taken the league by storm, eyeing possibly their first playoff berth since 2016. Their high-powered offense was putting up points at will. The front runner for MVP Derek Carr led the league in passing yards. And the Raiders defense had finally turned the corner.
On Monday, things couldn’t look much different. Head Coach Jon Gruden resigned from the Las Vegas Raiders after homophobic and misogynistic emails leaked from his past while employed with ESPN.
“I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Gruden said in a statement issued by the team. “I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”
On Jan. 9, 2018, Mark Davis handed Jon Gruden the keys to the organization, signing him to a 10 year, $100M contract, bringing the former head coach back into the NFL after a short stint as a broadcaster for ESPN.
In his first four years with the Silver and Black, Gruden turned over the entire Raiders organization, something Mark Davis fully backed. GM Reggie McKenzie was swapped out for Mike Mayock. The whole coaching staff was fired, and Gruden brought in his own guys, and almost the entire 53-man roster is different than it was under Jack Del Rio in 2017.
For the most part, Gruden’s plan was finally coming to fruition. But all of that ended Monday evening when owner Mark Davis accepted his resignation from the team.
“I have accepted Jon Gruden’s resignation as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.” A short and direct message was posted on the Raiders official website.
Jon Gruden may not coach again, but he was always known as a stand-up guy. One that commanded a lot from his players. He was known as a coach that could get the best out of his guys and for that, he was well respected by his current players.
One player reached out and told me, “Jon Gruden was the best coach I have ever had. He is far from racist.” Another told me, “Gruden brought a ton of positive energy. He’s a guy you want to go battle for.” Some players took to social media to show support for Coach Gruden. Trayvon Mullen posted on his social media, saying, “It’s about how you finish, got you JG,” JG referring to coach Jon Gruden.
Regardless of how players may or may not have felt about Jon Gruden, one thing was for sure: Jon Gruden had to go.
The Raiders have led the way for the NFL in diversity over the years. Tom Flores was the first Hispanic head coach, Amy Trask was the first woman executive, and Carl Nassib was the first openly gay player on an active NFL roster.
What the Raiders stand for makes Gruden’s choice of words that much more damning. He had to go, but what is next for Las Vegas?
The Raiders have three coaches on the current team with head coaching experience in Rod Marinelli, Gus Bradley, and Tom Cable. However, Rich Bisaccia will be the interim head coach after Gruden’s resignation. Bisaccia is in his 38th season as a coach and fourth as an assistant head coach and special teams coordinator for the Raiders. Although not confirmed, it is presumed that Greg Olson will call the plays for the Silver and Black.
With Rich Bisaccia taking over as interim head coach, the Raiders will do their due diligence this offseason and get ready for their hiring process. One of the crucial things to keep an eye on is how Mark Davis moves forward. He had given Gruden the keys to the entire organization and gave him free will on every decision. This approach isn’t traditional and is rarely seen in the NFL.
The more traditional approach would be hiring a GM and letting him handle everything, from hiring a head coach to the draft process, including scouting.
That wasn’t the case with Jon Gruden. Gruden had his hand in everything.
If Mark Davis does sit back and let a GM take control, will it be Mike Mayock?
That will be an exciting thing to keep an eye on, as some head coaches might not want to coach for a GM that they don’t believe can draft well. Mayock has had some big misses like DE Clelin Ferrell and, more recently CB Damon Arnette. At the same time, he’s found some late-round gems in DE Maxx Crosby and CB Nate Hobbs.
Whoever ends up taking over for the Raiders will have some flexibility to construct the roster. According to Overthecap, the Raiders have over $52M in cap space in 2022, and they already have some of their best players on team-friendly contracts, such as Darren Waller ($6.75M) and Kolton Miller ($16.8). QB Derek Carr is also not guaranteed any money and will be in the final year of his contract, so a new coach could look towards a new direction with this team.
Obviously, the Raiders’ season isn’t over yet. They are 3-2 and have a ton going for them. They have 12 games left and can still make the playoffs but they will need to be ready against a tough divisional opponent in the Denver Broncos.
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