Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden did not mince words in his first official press conference since his return to the NFL coaching ranks last month. “Chucky,” with his infamous scowl, talked the Raiders roster, showed his passion for the game, and his frustration with the rules at the 2018 NFL Combine.
Defense has glaring needs.
One of the first things Gruden spoke to was the “glaring needs” of his team on the defensive side of the ball. With still no decision on whether or not the team will resign linebacker Navarro Bowman, the Raiders have a huge question mark at inside linebacker. Also compounding issues on the defense are the uncertainty around DL Denico Autry and NT Justin Ellis – both are set to hit free agency in two weeks. There’s no question the Raiders front seven needs a lot work. When asked about the younger members of his roster, those acquired via the draft the past few seasons, Gruden made it clear the team needs its youth to step up and play a big role if the team is to succeed.
“Just looking at our last three drafts, we need some young people to emerge and start playing, a lot, for this football team,” Gruden said.
Gruden did update us a little on Raiders 2017 1st round pick cornerback Gareon Conley, saying the talented youngster would be ready for off-season workouts. Gruden said the Raiders were counting on Conley, and second round pick safety Obi Melifonwu, “to play”. He also reiterated the need for linebacker Bruce Irvin needing to be on the edge, and not so much over the tight end or offensive tackle.
“We need to get [Bruce Irvin] some help so that he can what he does the best more often,” Gruden said.
Clearly the coach recognizes how portions of the Raiders roster were used less than efficiently during the previous coaching staff’s tenure.
What has Gruden losing sleep (the little that he does get) at night concerning this incarnation of the Raiders?
He shared his biggest frustration is having to make decisions on players without being able to get know them first. He even went as far as to say he gets “emotional about it at times.”
The CBA does not allow Coach Gruden to talk football specifics until April 9th.
Gruden Focused on Three Positions on Offense
With needs throughout the roster, when it comes to the offense, Gruden is focused on three key areas: halfback, fullback, and a blocking tight end.
We, again, heard the coach say he was counting on Marshawn Lynch to be back next season. While we all read into this that it means he could very well be back, it doesn’t guarantee anything. The Raiders are better with Lynch in the lineup, but something tells me Gruden is being Gruden: shrewd, calculated and politically savvy with the possibility of Lynch returning.
“We will see what happens,” Gruden said.
Gruden said he hopes he can bring back “old school” football by complementing Lynch with a fullback and a blocking tight end. The Raiders currently have fullback Jamize Olawale and tight end Lee Smith. Olawale was injured much of last season, but is still under contract for 2018. Smith is set to be a free agent on March 14th and could be in high demand with a shortage of blocking tight ends.
“Man, I am trying to bring the game back to 1998,” Gruden said.
The NFL, and most importantly the Raiders, need Jon Gruden.
Gruden also spent some time at the combine press conference waxing nostalgic. He talked of his prior NFL Combines and getting a second chance in Oakland. He also made sure to talk about his coaching staff and their experience, what they will bring to the Raiders, and how hard they’ve worked to get the right people in the right spots.
When asked about the rumored changed in the NFL catch rule, Gruden said he had a lot of thoughts on it but that he was not on the committee. He did finish up his press conference by saying this.
“I bet the NFL is glad to have me back because I’ll be raising hell about all these issues,” Gruden commented on questionable pass interference calls and the catch rule.
There’s no doubting having Gruden back in the NFL will be a great thing for Raiders fans, but also for the overall entertainment value of the league. The injection of fire and personality back into the head coaching ranks is sure to make 2018 and beyond more fun for everyone.