The collapse of the Pittsburgh Steelers is in full swing. Contract negations, off-field disrespect and player feuds drove 30-year old wide receiver Antonio Brown and 27-year-old running back Le’Veon Bell out of Pittsburgh. The two players combined for 109 touchdowns and 16,543 yards for Pittsburgh over the past nine NFL seasons. Across the country in California, the Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden appears to be reaping the benefits.
Gruden received the longest coaching deal in NFL history by signing a 10-year, $100 million contract prior to the 2018-19 season. In his first season at the helm, however, he left much to be desired.
In his 2018 campaign with the Raiders, Gruden left much to be desired. The supposed “quarterback whisperer” saw quarterback Derek Carr lead the team to a 4-12 record with a quarterback rating of 49.3. That put Carr at 27th out of the 33 quarterbacks in the ranking last season.
Gruden also traded the Raiders’ best player, linebacker Kahlil Mack, to the Chicago Bears after Mack announced he would be holding out until he was paid more money. Gruden added insult to injury with a mind-boggling quote after the Raiders lost to the Denver Broncos, 20-19, only recording one sack.
“It’s hard to find a great one. It’s hard to find a good one,” Gruden said about finding good pass rushers, according to NFL News. “You have to train these guys. It takes a little bit of time to learn how to rush the passer. We have some guys that are in that process right now.” Gruden had one of the best pass rushers in Mack, but traded him for two first round picks, and four draft picks in total.
The Raiders also traded away their best receiver in Amari Cooper who went on to thrive for the Dallas Cowboys.
It seemed Gruden’s tenure was going to be long and disastrous. At least, that is what it seemed like until Sunday March 10.
Gruden and the Raiders acquired Brown in a trade with the Steelers, only giving up a third and fifth round draft pick.
This gives Gruden and his quarterback a future NFL Hall of Famer to work with in the passing game.
Also, Gruden loves to develop young quarterbacks, and has a shot at nabbing ex-Oklahoma quarterback and outfielder Kyler Murray with the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Gruden informed reporters about his interest in Murray.
“I saw Drew Brees twice a year in Tampa, then I met Russell Wilson coming out of N.C. State,” Gruden said, according to NBC Sports. “Now I’m watching this kid, Murray, coming out of Oklahoma, and I’m putting away all the prototypes I once had.”
Gruden may be willing to draft the undersized Murray and pair him with Brown in a potentially lethal offense next season.
The Raiders also have two other first round draft picks to improve the team and have been rumored as a potential landing spot for Le’Veon Bell.
Gruden’s disastrous first season in Oakland may have all been leading up for Gruden and the Raiders to strike for the AFC West division title.
His moves may be crazy and his quotes to the media even crazier, but he has led Oakland to the playoffs before, and he could do it again with a new high-powered offense. Is Gruden crazy? Probably. Is his plan crazy enough to work? It is starting to look that way, especially if he drafts and hones Murray’s dynamic offensive abilities to pass to Brown as well as luring Bell to play football in Oakland.