Jon Gruden’s first tenure lasted four years, which doesn’t seem like a long time until you consider that no other Raiders head coach since Art Shell’s six-year stint ended in 1994 has lasted more than three seasons.
“We have got to put a system in place here that our players can grow within,” Gruden said in an interview with KNBR 680-AM radio. “We have had 10 different head coaches, I believe, since I’ve been here. We’ve had a number of different offensive coaches. Poor Reggie McKenize has had to draft players to fit different schemes and systems and I think it’s hurt us. A lack of continuity, a lack of system football on offense and defense has certainly hurt the Raiders.”
To be certain, nine coaches have graced the Raiders sideline since Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season. Jack Del Rio, who was fired one year after a 12-4 season to make room for Gruden, is the only one of those nine that lasted three full seasons.
So, the lack of continuity the past six years is on McKenzie and owner Mark Davis, given they hired and fired Hue Jackson — Davis fired Jackson before McKenzie started his reign as Raiders general manager — Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano and Del Rio. In turn, those coaches blew through numerous offensive and defensive coordinators.
For instance, Del Rio nudged out offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for Todd Downing after the 2016 season, and he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. midway through last season and promoted John Pagano to take Norton Jr.’s place.
But, Gruden is spot on about the continuity. That was the same issue the Raiders had at quarterback before they drafted Derek Carr in 2014. Now that no longer is an issue.
The same goes for the interior of the offensive line, where McKenzie locked up guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson. Soon, he intends to put the clamps on defensive end Khalil Mack by giving him a long-term contract. Wide receiver Amari Cooper probably will get the same treatment next offseason.
By Davis giving Gruden a 10-year, $100 million contract that should take care of the turnover at head coach, at least on Davis’ end.
Now it’s incumbent upon Gruden to make sure that offensive coordinator Greg Olson, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, in particular, are the best fits at those spots and to keep them on staff as long as possible.
The Raiders have had 11 offensive coordinators and six defensive coordinators since Gruden’s first tenure ended. If he wants that process to change, he is empowered to make it happen.
“Hopefully we can put a system in place that we can draft into, develop our players within and hopefully it can carry us to high levels and we’ve just got to prove it,” Gruden said.