One thing is apparent after the Oakland Raiders first OTA session of the 2018 season: Jon Gruden is implementing the Patriot Way in Oakland.
When the Raiders hired new coach Jon Gruden, there was some backlash in the national media. The negative viewpoints centered around Gruden having been off the sideline for the previous 10 seasons. Gruden was quick to dispel this notion pointing out the unique advantages his career in broadcast afforded him.
“Look, I’ve got to see every facility in the league,” Gruden said at his introductory press conference. “I’ve had a chance to watch them practice. See how they conduct training camps. I’ve had a chance to learn some things, and see some things that I would have never gotten to see as a coach.”
These advantages and revelations were not limited to simply how a team practiced. Gruden also got to see first hand how the most successful teams build their rosters and the qualities they look for in players. It is one thing to break down individual players and construct profiles that teams seem to favor, it is another thing to get the information first hand from the teams themselves.
There hasn’t been a more successful Head Coach who also served as his own general manager than the New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Raiders head coach has a great deal of respect for Belichick and seems to be emulating portions of his player/personnel strategy which he certainly gained knowledge of during his time in broadcasting.
“I’m envious of the Patriots, I really am.” Gruden said at the scouting combine. “The Patriot Way, finding players that are versatile, finding players that can adapt on a weekly basis to win a game. They don’t care how they beat you either. They’re not afraid to use a 60-minute clock to beat you in the final seconds and they’re not afraid to blow you out either.
“But they can morph themselves into a two-back team; they can come out with five receivers and play no-back formations. It’s just a pleasure to watch them adapt every year to the new rules and to the new men on their roster and on their coaching staff. It all starts with [Bill] Belichick and Tom Brady certainly, but the people behind the scenes there deserve a lot of credit.”
Any time personnel people talk about the Patriots roster the first word that is used is always “smart.” Most people will hear that term and equate it to “playing smart and not getting penalties,” which is important, but only half of the story. The other half pertains to how they “adapt on a weekly basis.”
In order to adjust their system in order to attack teams in different ways each week using the Patriot Way, New England has to have players who can absorb a lot of information in the short period of time coaches have with their players. The problem of course is not just in learning the new game plan, it is executing it. Gruden has already begun the process of getting his players used to learning fast.
“We have a whole lot of plays, even right now, this early,” Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper said after Tuesday’s practice. “We have something for everything, every defensive look out there. We can audible to something to get us in the right play for any defense.”
The Raiders will have game plans designed for each opponent they face this season. Attacking each team based upon their individual weaknesses makes sense but is not as easy as it sounds. Imagine if your job or school came out with new procedures, expected you to execute them flawlessly, then changed them again the following week. That is what these players are going to have to be able to adapt to.
It will not only effect how the Raiders play but also how opponents prepare for them. Teams game preparation and film studies revolve around two main topics, players and tendencies. Opposing coaches want to know what the team is most likely to do in various situations and what players they have performing those tasks. For example if an offense has run the ball 75% of the time on 2nd and 10, they will be alert for a run in those situations.
They want to see how the team deploys their players so they can create favorable match ups. Things like do the corners follow receivers or do they stay on one side of the field. If they stay on one side, I can get my best wide receiver on their second best corner. They play man coverage on 3rd down so I can get my running back one on one with their linebacker.
By changing how the players are used each week, Gruden is going to be much harder to game plan against. Not only will he have a team that can exploit the opposing team’s weaknesses, the opposing team isn’t going to know what to expect. That advantage usually plays out with jumping to an early lead which will open the door for guys like EDGE rushers Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and rookie Arden Key to pick up sacks.
The Raiders will have some games won this season before they even start. It will be a welcomed and refreshing change for Raiders fans after witnessing their team being out coached so often in recent history. Gruden has begun implementing the Patriot Way into the Raiders roster and it started with the first practice of the 2018 season.