After six years of begging by owner Mark Davis, the Oakland Raiders finally have a roster talented enough bring Jon Gruden back to coach. Most importantly there is a quarterback he can do great things with in Derek Carr.
Carr finished third in NFL MVP voting in 2016 but came back and struggled in 2017. A broken back in three places didn’t help but that wasn’t the only factor.
Carr’s back should be at full strength for 2018 so all Gruden has to do is can fix the rest and he can. When he does fix everything, he will take Carr to another level.
“He has great arm talent, he’s athletic, he’s got natural leadership skills, he’s young, he’s in his prime, he’s healthy now,” Gruden said at his introductory press conference. “He’s, I think, been in a lot of different systems, played for a number of different coaches. There hasn’t been a lot of continuity around him that way. I think he has a huge upside. I think with Greg Olson and the system we are going to put in place is going to demand a lot from him and I think that is what is going to unlock the greatness in him but very, very excited to have him as our quarterback.”
Gruden is known for his work with Rich Gannon, who was a journeyman QB for much of his career. Over his first 11 NFL seasons, Gannon started 53 games, going 31-22 while completing just 57 percent of his passes for 11,158 yards with a passer rating of 75.64.
In five year’s in Gruden’s offense from 1999 to 2002 (and I’m counting 2002 NFL MVP season because the Raiders didn’t change anything after trading Gruden) Gannon went 41-23 and completed 63 percent of his passes for 15,787 yards with a passer rating of 93.2. That’s 17.56 points Gannon gained under Gruden.
Offensive Coordinator Olson is most known for the work he did with Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff.
As a rookie in 2016 without Olson, Goff went 0-7, completing 55 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards with a passer rating of 63.6.
With Olson as his QB coach in 2017, Goff went 11-4, completing 62 percent of his passes for 3,804 yards and a passer rating of 100.5 for a 37-point improvement.
Olson’s title in Oakland is OC but he will really be his QB coach as Gruden will run the offense. Carr has the equivalent of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men in Oakland putting him back together again. And when he gets back on the field, Carr will have everything he needs to have a big year in 2018.
He still has one of the best offensive lines in football protecting him. Tom Cable is a great offensive line coach that will mix the zone and power scheme to open up holes for running back Marshawn Lynch, who was among the league’s leaders in yards after contact and forced missed tackles last season.
In the passing game, Carr has receivers Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree, along with tight end Jared Cook is also a major weapon, entering his second year with Carr.
Gruden’s attention to detail alone will get Carr and everyone around him to perform. Former Raiders WRs Tim Brown and Jerry Rice spoke about that attention to detail and how hard the players will get coached up. He will also help the offense with his designs and game plans, unlike offensive coordinator Todd Downing in 2017.
“I think the offense is poorly constructed,’ ESPN’s Louis Riddick said. “I think they made a mistake as far as their offensive coordinator hire and I think it’s having a trickle-down effect on Derek himself, on Amari Cooper, on Michael Crabtree, on Jared Cook, on all of them.”
Gruden’s task is to fix everything that is scheme and gameplan-related. And Carr still has enough talent to run the offense. Between that and his back healing, look for Carr to excel. If Carr was an NFL MVP candidate with an average OC like Bill Musgrave Gruden will definitely have him in the running.