The nationally televised Jon Gruden press conference was as grandiose and as over-the-top as expected.
But the 38-minute spectacle didn’t need the darkened lights, the hype video, the theme music. It Jon Gruden’s show. That was all that was needed.
The funny thing is, Gruden is bare bones. The guy is simply about football. Any guy who wake up at the 3 in the morning doesn’t need pomp and circumstance. As he said, he’s not all that deep. He’s all football.
In fact, Gruden mentioned during the presser – which he had an huge audience and he predictably hit a grand slam – that he was ready to stop talking and get to work.
I believed him. That’s what struck me most about this event, which really didn’t break any new ground. Gruden is here to work and that came across.
Below are some thoughts on key developments:
Reggie is second fiddle: Reggie McKenzie, who has been the Raiders’ general manager for the past six years, sat next to Gruden on the podium. But make no mistake, he is No. 2 in the front office. Gruden said all the right things. McKenzie said they will work well together. Gruden said it will be a “collaborative” effort. But this is Gruden’s show. McKenzie hardly said anything in the press conference. I don’t think these two will have a bad relationship. They’ve known each other for a quarter century dating back to their Green Bay days. But it’s Gruden’s show. That’s what happens when you get paid $100 million. He gets to call the shots. Raiders’ owner Mark Davis thinks a lot of McKenzie, so he will have a place in the organization – if he wants it. After running the show, McKenzie could eventually tire of having a reduced role.
Mark Davis is happy: Mark Davis was very open. Tuesday culminated a long pursuit for him. He’s been pursuing Gruden for six years. He told reporters after the presser that he even visited Gruden in Tampa around mid-season when the Raiders were in Florida. He’s thrilled. Also, kudos to Davis for saying the Raiders’ performance center should have Jack Del Rio’s name on it. When Del Rio was hired three years ago, he pushed hard for the team to build the center. It was the first thing he did when he became the head coach and it was completed in time for his first season in Oakland. Davis handled the Del Rio firing poorly, but giving this nod to him was a nice thing to say. Now, Davis needs to follow through and name it for Del Rio. It would be an unusual honor for a fired coach, but what about this whole deal has been normal?
Gruden played to the fans: Gruden was signing autographs for the die-hards who hung out at the team’s facility Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. During his presser, Gruden said how much he loved and missed the Raiders and their fans. He said on multiple occasions he can’t wait to see the fans again. He mentioned how much he loves Oakland. Oakland was a theme of this. He said he wants to retire as coach of the Oakland Raiders. Of course, they are leaving to Las Vegas in two years show. Gruden told reporters Davis can address the Vegas Raiders. Gruden is focused on the immediate future. That will further ingratiate Gruden to fans. Davis need to sell tickets in Oakland for the next two years and Gruden will ensure he does.
Pumping up Carr: The key to the Raiders’ success is quarterback Derek Carr. Facing Carr, who had an off year in 2017, is Gruden’s first job. Gruden pointed to a back injury Carr had as contributing to his bad season. The truth is, Carr was struggling before the injury and he struggled late in the season, well, after the injury time period expired. Gruden said Raiders fans should be excited about having Carr. He’s saying all the right things. However, former Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon. who was among the many former Raiders in attendance, had an interesting comment about Carr.
Gannon: “I don’t care how hard Derek’s worked before. He’s going to have to change his work ethic a little bit to fit in.”
— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) January 9, 2018
Listened back to this quote again. Gannon said "work habits," not "work ethic."
— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) January 9, 2018
There have been reports Gannon could be Gruden’s quarterback coach. Gannon said no decision has been made. If so, expect him to ride Carr hard if he joins the staff.
Opened mind to Marshawn Lynch: Gruden said he is looking forward to meeting Lynch. Since Gruden was a member of the media, Lynch didn’t talk to him, Gruden joked. He said he is interested in talking to Lynch. He is under contract, so the Raiders can make it happen if they chose. But with him going to be 32 this year, I could see Gruden opting for another starter at running back.
C-Wood with question of the day: Former Raiders’ safety Charles Woodson was one of a ton of former Raiders’ players there. He had the best question for Gruden, asking him if he has a no-trade clause. Of course, the late Al Davis traded Gruden to Tampa Bay after the 2001 season. Gruden laughed and said he does, indeed, have a no-trade clause. Whether that is true or not, I don’t think he have to worry about Mark trying to swap Gruden anytime soon.
Adding to staff: Gruden confirmed that he has hired Paul Guenther (defensive coordinator), Greg Olson (offensive coordinator) and Rich Bisaccia (special teams). The Sporting News reported that the linebackers coach David Lippincott expected to follow Guenther from Cincinnati to Oakland. Gruden praised Guenther, who worked with his brother Jay in Cincinnati, for his defenses that feature a single-gap, upfield attack. Also, Gruden’s son, Deuce, said he will join his pa’s staff in Oakland. The holy-moly-is-he-jacked Deuce was on Uncle Jay’s staff in Washington. Also, the team will reportedly interview Eliot Wolf for a front-office gig this week.
Game changes: Gruden was asked a lot about his nine-year absence from the sideline. He assured questioners he is all in. He knows there are going to be some adjustments to make. He is clearly not a big fan of the CBA that has limited player-coach-time. That makes sense because Gruden wants to work. That was the overriding theme of this show – Chucky is back and he is heading back to the lab.