Jon Gruden has a reputation for being extremely demanding of his players. In particular, his quarterbacks. In his last stint in Oakland, he had Rich Gannon giving as much as he received from him and that relationship worked very well. His first year in Tampa, he had veteran Brad Johnson, who he guided to a Super Bowl trophy. The question has been if Derek Carr has a thick enough skin to handle Gruden’s intense criticism.
In an interview with Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game Monday, Carr said he has spoken some with Gruden since he arrived in Oakland. Presumably one of those times was just prior to his introductory press conference, where I spotted Carr leaving the facility in his truck.
As you might expect, Carr not only thinks he can handle whatever Gruden dishes out, he is inviting the coach’s criticisms.
“I hope he’s hard on me, I really do,” Carr said Monday afternoon.
“Some of my best years I’ve had, not just in the NFL but in college, were with coaches that were extremely tough on me and extremely demanding. For me that’s nothing, that’s easy. That’s where I thrive. Because as long as I know that you care about me, that you love me, you can say whatever you want to me as long as it’s helping me get better.
“So, I don’t this is going to be a problem at all. And actually, it’s not that I think, I know it’s not going to be a problem at all. We’re going to have a great relationship, we’re going to be hard on one another, pushing each other to be better, and that’s how it should be. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited man. I’m telling you what, everyone should be excited, because he’s coming in here with a great mindset, with a great vision, with a great plan and he’s going to demand excellence from everybody.”
Demanding perfection is kind of Gruden’s MO. But the key to any good head coach is not what you demand, it’s how you demand it. His former players say that’s what makes Gruden so popular and effective in getting the most out of them.
In speaking with former Raiders Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice following Gruden’s introductory press conference, I asked him about whether Gruden’s players have to have a thick skin to handle him.
“Jon is gonna know. He’s just that type of coach,” said Rice. “He’s gonna know the buttons to push with certain players. I think the thing he’s really gonna bring is he’s always gonna be this fired up coach. He’s gonna leave everything on the football field and hopefully the players buy into it and work hard and pay attention to detail and win football games.”
“What he tries to instill in quarterbacks is, ‘hey, you’re the leader of the football team. We can draw plays up, we can do everything, we can put in a game plan, but you’re gonna have to go out and you’re gonna have to implement that on the football field.’ So, that’s the most important thing is that leadership role.”
Last season he seemed to lack the confidence and leadership with which he thrived in his breakout 2016 season. It’s something Rich Gannon said recently was the number one area Carr needed to capture to take his game to the next level. Gruden has that in spades. If Carr can be a conduit of that, as he seems convinced he can be, this can be a winning formula.