By Spencer Bowen
As a fan of entertainment, I am ecstatic about the Raiders’ new head coach. As not a big fan of the Raiders’ decision to abandon Oakland in favor of The Land of 120 Degrees and Terrible Decisions, I’m also ecstatic. If I were a Raiders fan? I’d be a bit peeved. Let me count the ways.
Is this really what it took to rip Gruden away from mediocre once-weekly television announcing? All of King Midas’ silver? Gruden is making out like a goddamn bandit. I would love to see live video of Mark Davis backing a truck of money up Gruden’s driveway, dumping literal piles of cash, giving Gruden a knowing “we both have awful haircuts” wink, then drive off to another morning iced tea at P.F. Chang’s. Kyle Shanahan’s Niner deal was blockbuster at the time: 6 years with no offsets (i.e. fully guaranteed, pretty much no matter what). Shanahan had just coordinated one of the best offenses in recent memory and probably should’ve received half of Matt Ryan’s MVP trophy. Gruden spent a decade getting way too excited about routine blocks and got more money for more years to go to a much better personnel situation… and it’s totally guaranteed. Cut to Shanahan’s agent beating his head against the wall like a house elf.
It’s monstrously, spectacularly, cosmically bad. At least Mark Davis’ is a consistent awful. Gruden’s hair changes by the minute, defined only by its unpredictability and its resemblance to a living creature. Should it be longer? Shorter? A different color? If Miss American candidates were asked “What would you do to improve John Gruden’s hair?” they’d all end up sounding like Miss Teen South Carolina. At least he’ll (hopefully) wear a hat during games.
It doesn’t take a savant to notice the consistent thread among most successful young quarterbacks in today’s NFL: sensible, innovative, offensive-minded head coach hires. A diseased yak could tell you that Mike Mularkey is holding Marcus Mariota back in Tennessee. Belichick traded Jimmy Geezus / Jimmy GQ / Jimmy Guapo / Jimmy GarHOTallo / Jimmy God to San Francisco in part because of his respect for Kyle Shanahan, and whaddayaknow it’s going swimmingly. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz look like an NFC force for years to come. The Bears just hired 39 year old coordinator Matt Nagy as head coach, with the implicit task of shaping
Mitch Mitchell Trubisky into a professional quarterback. Most impressively, Sean McVay took prematurely-labeled “bust” Jared Goff from punchline to borderline Pro Bowler in one season. So what do the Raiders do to continue developing their young, highly paid, talented passer? They hire someone who hasn’t coached a football player at any level in more than nine years. Spider 2 Y Banana!
Are we sure Gruden is good? He was… average in his Raiders / Bucs career. He’s got a pretty big sample size to examine and I’m not sure it sings out “Deposit the National Treasure at his doorstep.” He did well with the Raiders, infusing the team with a distinct vibe and a semi-exciting offense that produced no losing seasons. He then lucked into a completely and totally stacked Buccaneers team (Warren Sapp! John Lynch! Keyshawn Johnson! Ronde Barber! Mike Alstott!) that he took on a one season revenge roll to the Super Bowl before averaging less than 8 wins a year for the rest of his tenure in Tampa. It’s not like they’re hiring Belichick away from New England or even someone like Pete Carroll (yuck) with a solid evidence-based “I’m an effective NFL coach” claim.
Here’s to Gruden absolutely, definitely, surely not making it 10 years.