What does the hiring of Jon Gruden mean for Oakland Raiders that might be on the roster bubble?
Jon Gruden is back as the 2017 NFL season came and went, and needless to say, fans of the Oakland Raiders were quite upset about how the season turned out. An inconsistent offense, a lackluster defense and a barrage of injuries led to a 6-10 massively disappointing season for the Silver and Black. The Raiders had their fair share of problems, but perhaps none bigger than Jack Del Rio, whose pride kept him from taking responsibility for the decline of this previously 12-4 playoff team.
Someone had to be the sacrificial lamb for the letdown, and it was Ken Norton Jr. who got off easy. He was fired after the 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 11. The defense improved under John Pagano, but the illusions of this being a playoff-caliber team ended with a crushing 25-16 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs a couple games later. All the while, the offense under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing continued to sputter, made more disappointing by the high expectations set for him and the added talent on the offensive side of the ball in the offseason.
Even as the season came to an end, it seemed like a safe bet Del Rio would be given a chance to make things right in 2018. Having just signed an extension before the season, Mark Davis would have to eat quite a bit of money in order to make a switch, and that seemed like a long shot at best.
But the Jon Gruden rumors began to surface once again, and those rumors really picked up steam when Del Rio was fired minutes after the season finale. He took to the podium after an embarrassing 30-10 loss to the Chargers and made the announcement himself.
Roughly one week later, it was all but official — Gruden was coming back.
With his coaching staff taking form, it’s time to consider what the roster might look like under his watch. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents to make a decision on, and Gruden is known for having an affinity for veteran players. There are also some players under contract who are no guarantee to return. Let’s focus on five players:
NaVorro Bowman was released in the middle of the season by a rebuilding 49ers team who didn’t think he was worth his salary. Especially with rookie Reuben Foster ready to take his place.
Fortunately,, the Raiders were there to swoop in and pick up the former three-time Pro Bowler for chump change. He immediately became the Raiders best inside linebacker, making his impact felt right away.
Now that the season is over, could the Raiders convince an aging linebacker to stick around in hopes that Gruden can hit the ground running like he did in Tampa? It may not be out of the question.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez, Bowman said, “You know what he’s done in the past. You know that he understands the game of football, both sides. He’s studied the quarterback position inside and out. He’s a guy that is a well-known critic in this game and coach as well. I look forward to seeing what happens.”
Doesn’t quite sound like a guy who’s ready to exit. If he can be had on a one or two-year deal, low base with incentives, the price should be right for Reggie McKenzie to bring him back.
The player that has single-handedly caused me more headaches than all other Raiders combined is Reggie Nelson, who is either out of position or too slow to make a play far too often.
Aside from being consistently late in coverage, Nelson has become known for taking atrocious angles and his half-assed tackling. He’s 34 years old and his contact is set to expire, so he seems like an easy one to peg as heading out the door.
But then the Raiders brought in his old defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther. To be fair, Nelson had his best season as a professional under Guenther with 8 INT’s in 2015. But as his age, there is little hope he can even come close to replicating that kind of success.
Hopefully Nelson realizes that he’s not what he used to be and calls it a career — or hopefully, McKenzie realizes it first.
The one and only player still around since the last time Gruden rocked a Raiders visor on the sideline. But it’s no sure thing his old coach will bring him back for one last rodeo. Especially with how inconsistent Jano has become in last few seasons.
If it wasn’t for Derek Carr’s late game heroics, the Raiders would’ve lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016 thanks to TWO! missed kicks by the Polish Cannon. Better luck elsewhere, Seabass. But if Blair Walsh still has a job, you deserve one too!
With a decent preseason, a midseason start against the Ravens that left much to be desired and Todd Downing now gone, EJ Manuel’s career with the Raiders has come to its natural conclusion.
It’s not that he played bad football, it’s just that he’s not worth extending. Especially when there is a prospect in Connor Cook still under contract, whom Gruden has previously expressed his desire to work with. Cook is a safe bet to be Carr’s backup.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Crabtree, if only for treating Aquib Talib like Big Mike treated that defensive lineman on The Blindside. However, it was a selfish decision. Not to mention the number of drops and times he has inexplicably taken himself out late in games.
Add that to the fact that there’s little cap repercussion for his dismissal in the offseason, his time is up. To quote a fiery Rich Gannon during a Week 17 loss to LAC “Crabtree has a history of doing that and I can tell you, if you behave like that you won’t be back at Oakland next season…regardless of who’s coaching.”
The writing seems to be on the wall that he’ll be released this offseason.