Gruden’s Plans Changed and That’s Not a Lie

Jon Gruden Oakland Raiders

While many feel the Raiders organization lied about trying to win before they leave Oakland for greener pastures in Las Vegas, it’s simply not true. Once Gruden was inside the organization, he and Reggie McKenzie’s plans changed drastically.

The recent trade of wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys has proven the Raiders front office is fully embracing the team’s need and desire to rebuild.

Head coach Jon Gruden, in concert with general manager Reggie McKenzie, was able to secure their fifth first-round draft pick over the course of the next two seasons. This draft ammunition, as well as the now available cap space, will help the speed with which the new team will take shape. It is a curious shift in messages from the ‘win now’ mantra that was being touted in the early days of the new regime, however.

“I get excited when we make a play,” Gruden said at his introductory press conference. “I get excited when we make a first down. I really get excited when we win. I get really upset when we don’t, and I hope that still has a place in the NFL. That is how this organization rolls. It is about winning. If you aren’t winning, we are not going to be happy. I hope that is still a big part of every team in this league because it will be a big part of this organization.”

Jon Gruden Oakland Raiders
While many in Oakland look at Gruden as a liar, once inside the organizations, plans changed.

Those initial messages resonated with Raider fans as many of them felt the team was only a coaching upgrade from becoming an upper echelon competitor in the NFL. Certainly, an offensive mind like Gruden could return quarterback Derek Carr to his former MVP glory and unlock the enigma that was Amari Cooper. An innovative defensive coordinator in the mold of Paul Guenther would undoubtedly have Khalil Mack back in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. That resurgence was not to be with both Mack and Cooper now calling other cities home and even Carr’s name being whispered in trade rumors.

As this latest message of building for the future has been unfurled, it has left many of those same fans feeling cheated and deceived. Observing these two mindsets through a black and white prism, it is almost impossible to not feel like they were spoon-fed a lie. As Schrödinger’s Cat teaches us, however, two facts can be contradictory yet simultaneously true.

“We’re doing everything we can to win games,” Gruden said after practice this week. “And certainly to build this football team. Not everybody, I’m sure, understands what is going on but I just want to say those two things. We’re doing everything for the Raiders. For the team today and the team of the future. Sometimes it’s a tough job.”

As this latest message of building for the future has been unfurled, it has left many of those same fans feeling cheated and deceived. Observing these two mindsets through a black and white prism, it is almost impossible to not feel like they were spoon-fed a lie. As Schrödinger’s Cat teaches us, however, two facts can be contradictory yet simultaneously true.

Gruden wasn’t being deceptive in his initial optimism, his view of the roster simply changed. From all appearances, Mack’s holdout and subsequent departure served as the catalyst for the recent purge. It also seems that the front office anticipated a similar situation was brewing in the Cooper camp and deemed it prudent to cash in while they could get value for the young wideout.

It’s purely speculation but it is possible that had the organization and Mack’s agent found a workable contract structure, the team may have been more receptive to doing the same with Cooper. Once Mack was gone, the writing was on the wall that Cooper would be next. The staff witnessed how rudderless the defense looked and once the offense floundered they enacted a scorched earth policy.

What is certain is that fans need to strap in for yet another rebuilding process through this one begins with far more resources than the previous incarnations. While they can certainly feel frustrated and disappointed with the outcome of the season and the loss of beloved players, they shouldn’t feel deceived.

Gruden didn’t lie, his plans simply changed.

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