The Oakland Raiders did not sign Jon Gruden to a 10-year deal because of his career 95-81 overall record. They gave him that deal because he was the last truly successful coach for the Silver and Black. Plus, Gruden brings a broadcasting brand that he built almost as big as the legendary John Madden. This is precisely the public relations move the Raiders need after a letdown season in 2017. Signing Gruden is the move to ignite to the Oakland fanbase before they lose their team to Las Vegas in plus or minus a season.
Think about last year’s signing of Marshawn Lynch. The Raiders signed the Oakland native out of retirement because they needed a running back. Adding a discounted Lynch made extra sense for his love of the city. It helped settle relations after a 12-5 announced they’d be leaving their home for the second time in their existence.
The Raiders were lucky enough to sell out season tickets for the first time in their history. Lynch might not have been the only reason for this but he certainly didn’t hurt it. Gruden will have a similar effect in Oakland this season and beyond.
Any real Raiders fan recalls the first Gruden era. The Chucky Dolls, the sound bites and the explosive offenses represented Gruden’s Raiders. This regime needs that nostalgia to erase the disappointment stench left by last year’s team. Fans are eager to buy into the Chucky aura of the 2018 Raiders.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Raiders are chasing California natives in free agency already. These hometown heroes can help boost fans’ morals despite the dark cloud of relocation hanging over the Raiders.
Doug Martin, Trumaine Johnson and Richard Sherman were all connected to the Raiders in free agency rumors this year. This isn’t surprising since they all have various ties to the Bay. Remember, today’s current player knows Gruden for his Qb show and Monday Night Football commentary. This gives home recognition from today’s players and hopefully, it gives him credibility. Moreover, if Johnson or Martin were ever Raiders fans they were more than likely Gruden fans too. Thus, signing some more fan favorites from the Bay will help the team engage fans like Lynch and Gruden have.
Further, Gruden is already improving relations. It started with the huge introductory press conference. Dozens of Raiders alumni were in the building for the first time in a long time.
In a recent Sports Illustrated feature, Gruden goes to a sports bar in Oakland. He hasn’t been there in years even though he has a free parking spot. Gruden even asks fans their opinions. This is the fan relations the Raiders need during their last few seasons in Oakland. He’s also talked about his love for the City of Oakland and youth football. These are two key communities Gruden can help build relations with the Raiders.
Then, there was the NFL Combine. Oakland has always been one of the hardest draft picks to predict. Part of that is Al Davis’ tradition of keeping things in-house and old school. Even in the recent years, Raiders coaches have been experts at sharing coaches speak. On the other hand, Gruden just spent nearly a decade in the media. Networking in press boxes helped him gain some relations and learn how to make headlines.
Nonetheless, Gruden used the combine as a platform. He oozed with love for players on the current roster and called out underperforming players. He didn’t stick to coaches speak and he gave the media plenty of quotes. It was both refreshing and exhausting. It was perfect media relations. Also, good public advocacy for his players too.
Overall, the Raiders have an upcoming public relations nightmare. They’re entering possibly their last season in Oakland. Even if they stay one more season, that’s not enough to erase the public hurt of the team leaving for the second time in their history. That’s why hiring a coach with a team history and media image like Gruden was very important. Gruden is going to help the team build public, media, fan, community and player relations as this team gets ready to leave their home.
Of course, Gruden has to be more than a PR machine in his second tenure with the Raiders but we can’t overlook the fact that he was hired at least partly to build relations in Oakland. He’s doing a heck of a job engaging the Oakland and media communities already.
Ultimately, all the nostalgia and image building won’t matter if Gruden doesn’t win. Gruden is doing all the public relations strategies to help the Raiders build morale in Oakland. However, bringing home a Lombardi trophy is the best way to build morale. Quotes and talking are great for an image but Gruden needs to have the X’s and O’s for his public relations campaign to even matter. A 10-year contract won’t save Gruden from public and media scrutiny no matter how open or historic he is.
Don’t let Jon Gruden’s media face, legendary reputation and public relations strategy distract you from the fact that the Raiders are leaving Oakland in a season or two and they need to win immediately.