The hints for Marquette King’s dismissal were there. Listen to Jon Gruden enough and he will drop some dimes. Like this one when media folk at the NFL combine swarmed him: “Some of the missed kicks, you blame the kicker, but you look at the hold and the hold wasn’t very good,” Gruden said when asked about Giorgio Tavecchio’s prospects of being the Oakland Raiders answer at kicker.
Ears perked at those listening to that quote. King worked as the holder since Shane Lechler was axed (to be fair, King and then backup quarterback Matt Schaub shared the duty before the punter took sole possession).
That was clue No. 1. (Which I shared with my cohorts, many of whom dismissed the notion).
Clue 2 was an interesting appearance by King on NFL Network in early March. Adorned with a cape, crown, and scepter, the eccentric punter had a unique answer when asked about Gruden …
“Gruden, Gruden, Gruden … that’s the guy from Monday Night Football!,” King pronounced.
Clue 3 arrived on March 13 with the signing of former UC Davis punter Colby Wadman. Thought of as nothing more than a camp league, the Aggie was efficient in college dropping 72 punts inside the 20 in his four years at Davis. (This clue I shared again with my compatriots and again, the same scoffs).
Moreover, lo and behold, King is on the open market as a free agent just two seasons into a five-year $16.5 million pact. In addition, King was slated to make $3.05 million. The dismissal results in a $2.9 million cap savings for the Raiders.
Its crystal clear this is going to be Gruden’s roster. And, despite King blossoming into one of the game’s best punters, he’s no longer part of Chucky’s Raiders. Some have called it a pure salary cap move. Others have speculated it’s because King’s eccentric ways didn’t fit Gruden’s all-business approach.
Wadman or an evitable addition (Brad Wing in free agency or Texas’ Michael Dickson in the draft) will duke it out for punting duties.
That is to say, Gruden wants a punter like Los Angeles Rams booter Johnny Hekker — the games best punter, bar none. Although King was good, but not Hekker good. Making a cool $3.64 million, Hekker sits atop the league in most, if not all, punting categories and rarely speaks. Same goes for top earners Brett Kern (Tennessee), Sam Koch (Baltimore) and Jon Ryan (Seattle). The top four punters in the league going about their business quietly.
Not to say that’s the proper way to go about things. John Madden was a big proponent of letting his players have unique personalities. However, it’s not Gruden’s way.
Moreover, with these Oakland Raiders, that is all that matters — for better or worse.