Jon Gruden has drastically altered the Raiders roster before he’s coached a game in Oakland. Unfortunately, most of his moves have been disasters.
It was clear the Raiders were going to give Jon Gruden a lot of power when they handed him a fully guaranteed 10-year contract to be their head coach. He certainly hasn’t been shy about wielding his influence this offseason. The bad news for Raiders fans is that so far he’s only succeeded in robbing the roster of high-end talent and making it significantly older.
Neither of those things is a recipe for success in the NFL. Today’s trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears is deservedly dominating the headlines. Gruden has made it glaringly obvious that he had zero interest in making him one of the highest paid defenders in the league. Instead, he chose to ship the team’s most talented player to Chicago in exchange for draft capital.
That’s not going to help the Raiders win games in 2018. It’s also not going to help Gruden win any fans in the locker room. Several prominent players, including Bruce Irvin and Derek Carr, have expressed their dismay regarding the deal on social media today. It’s safe to assume the rhetoric in private is even stronger than what has hit the media thus far.
The decision to deal Mack isn’t the only Raiders disaster of the day though. The news that Martavis Bryant will be released, in part, due to receiving another four-game suspension of the NFL is a serious blow as well. Remember, the Raiders gave up a third-round selection to bring him to the West Coast. The decision to cut Bryant now essentially means they gave the Steelers that asset for nothing.
Optimistic Raiders fans would like to point to the young talent on the roster as a source of hope. In some ways that’s true, guys like Maurice Hurst and Arden Key could blow up and make this defense respectable. Neither is going to replace Mack, but both could develop into above-average starters in time. There are some intriguing young players on the roster.
The truth is that Gruden has managed to assemble the oldest group of players in the entire NFL. The Raiders’ current 53 man roster has an average age of 27.4. That may not seem old, but it’s the oldest group in the league by a full half-year over the next closest roster. That isn’t the ideal roster construction for a team that seems to be headed towards a rebuild.
Gruden’s hiring seemed to energize the Raiders fan base when it was first announced, but the reality of his tenure has been significantly worse than the idea. If his coaching isn’t significantly better than his roster management the Raiders are headed for a decade of irrelevance.