With many new coaches, regardless of team, hope springs eternal. For the Oakland Raiders, the specter of Jon Gruden also looms large. By nature, Gruden is an all-or-nothing coach. The endgame remains a championship. Yet, for the first year, no accurate gauge exists. This is not a typical team with a new leader. As a result, the answers can vary in depth. To answer this, FPC Raiders writers Ray Aspuria, Chris Simmons and Terrance Biggs sit and discuss the burden of first-year expectation. In 2017, after a thrilling 12-4 year, some thought Jack Del Rio would lead Oakland back to the promised land. However, a comedy of errors ensued and the team fell to 6-10.
I am optimistic at this point, I would guess most fans would be if only because everyone is healthy. Jon Gruden seems to have been a catalyzing agent and enthusiasm remains high. I do have concerns though: Conley’s health, Obi’s fit, the right tackle turnstile just to name a few. In all, I expect the good to stack much higher than the bad this season.
A year ago, fans and media owned high hopes for a team that finished 6-10. To this point, what level of optimism and concern do you have for the season and why?
The level of optimism is tempered. Sure, Jon Gruden’s return is a great storyline. Moreover, bringing in a sound defensive mind to run a historically impotent defense is impressive. The Raiders have a lot of proving to do and Gruden knows it. He admits it during almost every press conference. My main concern is can the Raiders defense finally rise to a level of competence not seen in Oakland since the days of Howie Long and the Soul Patrol? Paul Guenther is an excellent coach, but I do wonder if he has the horses to run the type of race he wants in Year 1.
In the first year, armed with a winnable schedule, the Raiders should finish 10-6 and vie for the division. If the defense can gel quickly, that would add another win, bring the Raiders an 11-5 mark. Now, the question turns to the playoffs. Under Gruden and a hopefully resurgent defense, the Raiders win at least one playoff. In the NFL, nothing appears too far-fetched.