The Raiders appear in a healthier frame of mind this offseason than last. 2017 drained the team and fanbase of whatever joy and good feeling remaining from the previous season. Through controversy, injury, and general bizarre behavior, the Raiders reverted to the mid 2000s for a season. Yet, Jon Gruden successfully erased that memory.
Granted, Jack Del Rio did win 12 games and bring this team to the playoffs in 2016. Yet, something always felt off. Whether his useless press conferences or throwing players under the bus, Del Rio failed to capture the hearts and minds of the fanbase. When the Raiders fired him, a sense of relief and uncertainty fell over the nation. Somehow, Mark Davis ponies up one hundred million dollars and Jon Gruden walks through the door and takes the job.
Despite Del Rio’s one great season, the Raiders felt rudderless from the outside. With Gruden, he brings a certainty of purpose and a gameplan to the fold. With Todd Downing, the Raiders enjoyed throwing short of the sticks and unimaginative playcalling. Now, we do not know what wrinkles Gruden brings. Yet, he will have the utmost confidence in his abilities. If you listen to Gruden speak about the offense, he emphasizes a great level of confidence. Del Rio never conveyed that true, bold self-belief.
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The Thanos Effect
If you have watch the Raiders remake the roster, a startling phenomenon took place. Jon Gruden started erasing free agents and draft picks from the Reggie McKenzie Era. From Michael Crabtree and Cordarrelle Patterson to Jihad Ward and David Amerson, the roster shifted. Even NaVorro Bowman, who played well last year, did not return.
In reality, there is no doubt who will take the credit and most of the blame with the Raiders. Jon Gruden clearly assumed the responsibility without hesitation. Most of these moves were his decision. More importantly, the future of this franchise, whether now or in Vegas rests in his hands. With that said the whole gamble on Gruden feels like a boom-or-bust proposition. Gruden’s words suggest that he believe anything short of runaway success will serve as a monumental failure. Make no mistake, if the Raiders fail to win during Gruden’s term, this will sink his legacy. There will be no next job. The Raiders and Gruden remain inextricably linked until multiple Lombardi Trophies are raised.