The Super Bowl champion Broncos of years ago have fallen, while the Chiefs and Raiders are rebuilding on the fly. Here are five things to look for in the AFC West.
At last, Jon Gruden is back in his old stomping grounds. No longer will he be calling Monday night games on ESPN. Instead, he’ll be putting his decades of football savvy to use in trying make the Oakland Raiders a Super Bowl contender once again.
But Gruden’s return to coaching isn’t the only intriguing storyline in the AFC West this season. In fact, there are several. For instance, after five close-but-no-cigar seasons with Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs have moved on from the veteran quarterback and will instead start 22-year-old Patrick Mahomes, who is entering just his second year in the league.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl three years ago, and now they seem to be in a rebuilding phase. But they are hoping newly-acquired quarterback Case Keenum can keep them relevant in 2018.
And then there are the Los Angeles Chargers, who have been hoping for 15 seasons now that Philip Rivers will make the leap from good to great, but it has yet to happen. Fans can probably expect more of the same this year, while they watch the Chargers continue to play home games in the laughable Stubhub Center.
Times are pretty interesting out west right now, and therefore, I present to you five things to look for in the AFC West in 2018…
5. What does Jon Gruden have in store for his return to Oakland?
Jon Gruden is a very familiar face at the Oakland Coliseum. His first head coaching job in the NFL was with the Raiders from 1998 to 2001. His teams performed pretty well during his first stint (40-28 overall, including playoffs), but Gruden’s last game as Raiders head coach is one that most fans would love to have wiped from their memory.
During the 2001 playoffs, Gruden’s Raiders were defeated by the New England Patriots 16-13 in the middle of a blizzard. Oakland seemingly had the game in the bag, until the controversial “tuck rule” gave the Patriots new life and they won in overtime on an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
The following year, the Raiders found themselves in the Super Bowl, only Gruden was on the other sideline coaching the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who crushed the Raiders 48-21 in the game. It will be interesting to see if Raiders fans have that in the back of their minds as they head into the first season of Gruden’s second coaching stint in Oakland.
As for the team, Gruden is tasked with helping the Raiders rebound from a 6-10 campaign and get back to the playoffs. Gruden has retooled the coaching staff and the offense, so look out for the Raiders to get back to form this year.