FINAL REPORT CARD
How the Raiders performed under Jon Gruden as head coach.
You might consider this too high a grade given the Raiders ranked 24th in scoring during Gruden’s tenure. But they improved each season between 2018-20 in both total offense and scoring. Derek Carr offered a career season under Gruden last year, the quarterback throwing for 4,103 yards and securing a 101.4 passer rating. Darren Waller developed into one of the NFL’s best tight ends during the former coach’s tenure. Things have slipped early this season, the Raiders are ranked 13th in total offense and 19th in scoring. Much of that has to do with awful play from the offensive line.
This grade is an F if not for the arrival this season of Gus Bradley as the team’s new defensive coordinator. Things are getting better. There is more and more pressure coming from up front. But that doesn’t erase the fact the team under Gruden allowed an average of 28 points. Dead last in the NFL during that time. In the previous three years, the Raiders never ranked better than 24th in total defense or points allowed. They were 30th in each last year. They also ranked last in sacks (13) in 2018. Couldn’t stop most anyone for much of Gruden’s time, which saw him fire former coordinator Paul Guenther.
Special teams: A
One of the better moves made under Gruden was signing place-kicker Daniel Carlson in 2018 after the latter was waived by Minnesota. Carlson went on to set a team record by making 94 percent of his field-goal attempts. He bested that mark in 2020 and has made 78-of-89 with the franchise. His 144 points set the franchise record for most scored in a single season, previously held by Raiders legend Sebastian Janikowski. A.J. Cole has been a more-than-dependable punter, and the Raiders have found the same consistency from wide receiver/returner Hunter Renfrow. Bottom line: The Raiders don’t screw up here much at all.
In the four previous seasons before Gruden arrived, the Raiders went 28-36 for a winning percentage of 44. He departs a fourth season at 22-31, good for 42 percent. Save a playoff appearance in 2016 when coached by Jack Del Rio, not much at all changed for the Raiders with Gruden. They remain a below-average team where it counts most in wins and losses. They’re really no better off now than when he arrived, although 12 games remain in this season to determine how good (or bad) the team he built can be.
He reached on Henry Ruggs and passed on (much) better receivers. He really reached on cornerback Damon Arnette and defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell and safety Johnathan Abram and apparently offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood. He drafted a running back (Josh Jacobs) in the first round when you don’t draft running backs in the first round. On the positive side, he made a solid first-round pick in tackle Kolton Miller, landed a fourth-round steal in defensive end Maxx Crosby and got Renfrow in the fifth and cornerback Trayvon Mullen in the second. But don’t get us started on Lynn Bowden, P.J Hall and Tanner Muse. Oh, brother.
Gruden helped to facilitate Waller’s breakout career and might have helped save his life after signing him off a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. It was his second drug-related suspension. Wide receiver Zay Jones will also tell you Gruden lit a fire in him to re-ignite his career when trading for him following a 2018 arrest for suspicion of felony vandalism. But here’s the thing — Gruden committed the ultimate sin of leadership. He didn’t lead by example. His emails embarrassed the franchise and led to his resignation. He let the franchise and, specifically, his players down.
— Ed Graney Las Vegas Review-Journal