By Barbara Mason
It’s a tough and unforgiving business. It’s obviously a result oriented business. You don’t win; you will not be around for long as former head coach Jack Del Rio found out a few weeks ago. While he was unquestionably a great guy as well as a solid coach, he just could not keep this team going into the 2017 season after a brilliant 12-4 2016 season. The decline was astonishing and while it is the players that dropped the ball, it was Del Rio who ultimately paid the price. This team needed someone who could stop the slumping, the sliding, the crumbling, and deterioration. We all knew him many many years ago. I believe his name was Jon Gruden.
The Raiders had barely gotten off the field after being blown-out by the Kansas City Chiefs 30-10 when owner Mark Davis delivered the news to Del Rio that he would not be returning as the Oakland Raiders head coach next season. It was not at all unexpected considering the dramatic collapse this team suffered. How it was conducted was questionable but it was inevitable. Was Gruden on the horizon before the final game was even in the books? Many believe so. The bottom line is that the Gruden deal was conducted at breakneck speed and now we sit back and listen to yet another new head coach reiterate how they are poised and ready to turn this team around.
This however is not just another head coach, this is Jon Gruden and he has already proven himself although that was 20 years ago. His popularity is undeniable as evidenced by the star-studded press conference conducted this week. It was a who’s who in the world of football with the likes of Charles Woodson, Jerry Rice. Howie Long, Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett, Jim Otto, Rich Gannon and the list goes on and on. It was a “Back to the Future” moment to be sure. Back in 1998 Gruden was given his first shot at the head coach position in Oakland by Al David and now 2 decades later he’s back in thanks to owner Mark Davis as well as a very lucrative contract. “I never wanted to leave the Raiders,” Gruden said. ”I never thought I’d be back but here I am and I’m ready to get to work,” he said. He is a true workaholic, in fact his photo should be placed alongside the definition.
He is one tough cookie expecting the best of all his players and he has the innate ability to dig deep and pull it out of them. We all saw what he did with Rich Gannon. ”There is unfinished business,” said Gruden alluding to the infamous New England game as well as his departure from the team so many years ago.
Gruden does believe that there is a lot of untapped potential already on this roster, a roster that he wants to improve even beyond where it currently stands. How will Gruden address some of the past player issues without naming names? He will be tough, fair and there will be NO distractions. His day will begin roughly around 3 am and end when it ends. He is almost maniacal in his work ethic and those who will be working on his staff are clear on what will be expected of them.
Now that all the hoopla has worn off the work will begin in earnest–and that will be to put together the best coaching staff on the planet. Anything less will not be acceptable to Gruden. His years in broadcasting will prove invaluable. The contacts he has made will no doubt be just another plus. We will all wait in anticipation to see what this new and greatly improved Oakland Raider coaching staff will look like. The future of the Oakland Raiders looks bright indeed and there will be no lack of excitement. 2018 just might prove to be a year to remember for the Silver and Black.