During the presidency of Harry Truman, he showed a fondness for a particular phrase that resonates to this day. ” The buck stops here” signals an end to the passing of blame and demands accountability. For the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden, after three seasons must begin to embrace this motto. For all of the credit he deserves for the offensive success, overwhelming blame must fall at his feet. Yet, for many that either cover or follow the team, Gruden manages to evade profound critique.
The Guenther Problem
After the latest defensive debacle, Gruden fired Paul Guenther. I say specifically mention Gruden because we all know he runs this team. In fact, Mike Mayock, in interviews corroborated that statement. If you are honest, you’d admit that Paul Guenther needed to go a year ago. Yet, ever the stubborn, inflexible one, Gruden retained Guenther in the offseason. Did Guenther fail in his job? Quite simply, in spectacular fashion. According to Josh Dubow, Guenther’s defenses ranked 29th or worse in points, yards per play, sacks, and takeaways. Also, Guenther mightily struggled with any semblance of halftime adjustments. The Raiders couldn’t stop a sneeze after the break. Close games veered into blowout territory in the third quarter. How much of this falls on Guenther and not Gruden? The scheme remains the sole fault of Guenther. Meanwhile, his continued employment falls squarely upon Gruden. Guenther failed when he led the defense. Yet, who allowed him to keep his job too long?
The Mayock Mess
While employed as a draft guru, Mike Mayock dazzled viewers with an encyclopedic knowledge of college players. After accepting the job as general manager, his draft record does not measure up. As mentioned, he still needs to run everything by Gruden, but you can’t defend how the Raiders selected. Clelin Ferrell, in a perfect world, fits as a run-stopping left end, not the fourth overall pick. Johnathan Abram profiles as a hard-hitting safety that the Raiders could have waited on and not selected in the first. While early, Henry Ruggs doesn’t see enough targets. Although the film illustrates how open he is, the ball never finds him with regularity. Basically, Ruggs runs cardio routes. Through no fault of his own, Nelson Agholor assumed that role. Mike Mayock knows how to dissect the film and form a qualified opinion. Jon Gruden appears less inclined to listen and do pretty much what he wants. Not to mention, trading Lynn Bowden before he played a snap. Or, over drafting Tanner Muse. Meanwhile, a healthy Bryan Edwards doesn’t figure into the offense.
Under Gruden, the Raiders repeatedly failed to fill holes with quality talent. Vontaze Burfict could not cease playing with a foolish mindset. Tahir Whitehead failed to cover basic routes. Jason Witten siphoned snaps that needed to be Foster Moreau’s. Carl Nassib collects checks to not play and sit inactively. The secondary, outside of Trayvon Mullen, is a cornucopia of retreads and fringe players. Additionally, the Raiders forked over millions to Marcus Mariota, who slides into the third spot, behind Nathan Peterman. Millions to not absorb punishment and wait for the inevitable phone call to replace Brady in Tampa in a few seasons.
The Free Pass
Part of the problem with Gruden’s second tenure is the aura surrounding him. Where is the intense pressure from the media and fans alike? Armed with a ten-year contract, he doesn’t appear to be leaving. The Chucky mythology and blind faith in him remains. Granted, he did turn Derek Carr into an accurate passer with occasional vertical aggression. However, by allowing the defense to fall into utter disrepair for years and not addressing the coaching problem correctly, the Raiders wasted another season.
Rod Marinelli now assumed the role of defensive coordinator, by merely working in the same building. Marinelli vouched for Maliek Collins, a complete non-factor. In fact, the Raiders cannot generate any pressure up front, which is the job of the DL coach to figure out. Honestly, Brentson Buckner accomplished more with less. For his effort, Gruden showed him the door. Buckner landed in Arizona, where his defensive line actually pressures the quarterback. Maybe Gruden should avoid hiring his friends. Instead, hire coaches that actually are hungry.
Jon Gruden, for the next six years, will coach the Las Vegas Raiders. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he will lead the team. As a result, the entire fortunes of the franchise rests in his hands. No one wants him to fail. However, he needs to learn from recent failures and improve along the way. With that said, the buck needs to stop with him.