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Graney: Gruden’s emails had no effect? That’s what players say

Updated October 11, 2021 - 6:51 am

Jon Gruden wasn’t going to draw a connection between how his football team performed Sunday to what transpired the previous 48 hours. Wasn’t going down that road.

Decide for yourself, then.

The Raiders, in the wake of their coach having written a 2011 email in which he used a racist comment in reference to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, offered one of their more unfocused and undisciplined and uninspired efforts in some time.

They lost to the Chicago Bears 20-9 at an Allegiant Stadium that was seemingly coated in as much orange as Silver and Black.

In one manner — a blessing of sorts — things seem to be working as government officials hoped when approving $750 million in public funding toward the building of this 65,000-seat structure. Tourists from visiting teams are flocking to Las Vegas. Purchasing game tickets, staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, gambling at tables.

In another — a curse of sorts — you have the Raiders using silent counts because of the pro-opponent noise.

If only that was Gruden’s lone issue this past week.

If only losing two consecutive games after a 3-0 start was his biggest concern.

Players react

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday about Gruden’s email regarding Smith, and ESPN followed with a report Sunday that Gruden also disparaged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with a vulgar description in another.

Gruden is under review by the NFL and his own team.

He addressed players before the Wall Street Journal story broke, and those made available after Sunday’s loss were steadfast: That at no point did any of it cause them to lose focus.

That it wasn’t a case of emails producing such a haphazard effort.

They just didn’t play well. Like at all.

“I don’t think (the emails) had anything to do with today,” running back Josh Jacobs said. “(Gruden) came to us and got it all out. I’ve been around this guy for three years now, and I’ve never felt a certain type of way. He never rubbed me that type of way. He said what he said at the end of the day, too. But I definitely trust him. It was 10 years ago. People grow.”

Added defensive end Yannick Ngakoue: “I wouldn’t say there was any reaction. We were focused on the game. We were worried about Chicago. I have no comment on (the emails).”

I’m not sure from where any potential discipline for Gruden arrives. The league. The Raiders. But this isn’t going away until a final determination is made in that realm.

His team on the field was as bad Sunday in parts as the news surrounding him off it.

The Raiders couldn’t run the ball behind a hurt and ineffective line. They couldn’t pass protect. They dropped balls. They were penalized 10 times for 82 yards. They had a touchdown called back. They didn’t come close to winning all three phases.

Result wasn’t changing

And afterward, an emotional Gruden addressed the controversial cloud that has hovered above him and the Raiders the last few days.

“I’m not a racist,” Gruden said. “I can’t tell you how sick I am. I’m a guy that takes pride in leading and bringing people together and will continue to do so the rest of my life. I apologize to anyone who was offended. We’ll see what happens in the next few days. I know the (emails) can hurt. I’m not like that. It’s not who I am. I apologize.”

Look. They need all sorts of help with that offensive line. Things either get better up front or winning any game will be a challenge. I’m thinking that played a bigger role in the loss than Gruden’s problems. Things were off from the jump.

Emails. Poor execution. Pick one.

The final result wasn’t changing.

You decide.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.