With Jon Gruden and each member of his coaching staff getting their individual moments, I think it’s time we stepped back and note just how impressive this staff is as a whole.
This was a big fish for Mark Davis to reel in. He kept at Gruden all these years, but make no mistake, he wasn’t the only one who would have loved to have Gruden choose their team to make his return to coaching. There were seven head coaches hired this offseason across the league and none are more celebrated than Gruden. Four are first time head coaches, and two are failed former head coaches. Gruden is the only one who has had previous success as a head coach with a 95-81 regular season record with just three losing seasons in 11 years of coaching, 5 trips to the postseason, a 5-4 playoff record, and a Super Bowl win.
He also carries with him a great deal of respect around the league, especially from those who have worked for him before. The fact that so many former players showed up to wish him well at his introductory press conference and so many coaches who have worked with him before have returned is evidence of how well-respected he is.
This hire caused a lot of Raiders fans to cringe when it was announced. I get that. He was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator during some dark times for the Raiders. And blaming Olson for that is incredibly unfair. Let’s keep a few things in mind here. Olson was the Raiders OC with Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin as their quarterback and not much else on a team that was gutted by Reggie McKenzie. He was then the OC the following season with a rookie QB and a coaching change after four games. And this time Olson will not be calling the plays. He is a QB guy and an offensive scheme guy.
Excuses aren’t credits, so here’s some. There’s a reason why Olson continues to get work as an OC in the NFL and it’s because he’s a brilliant NFL offensive mind and works wonders with quarterbacks. He comes fresh from the Rams where Jared Goff rebounded from supposed bust to Pro Bowl QB under Olson’s tutelage. Before that Olson, as the OC in Jacksonville, helped Blake Bortles to an outstanding 2015 season in which he threw for 4428 yards with 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
His return to Oakland gives Derek Carr a familiar face, so hopefully he won’t be starting over completely with a new offensive coordinator.
Probably the most impressive of all of Gruden’s hires. There is nothing not to like about Guenther as the Defensive Coordinator. He isn’t taking a promotion and he wasn’t fired from his previous job. He chose to leave his post as Bengals Defensive Coordinator; a position he held the past four seasons. It’s a job he worked his way up to after seven years as the team’s linebackers coach. He’s coached in the NFL for 15 years and his highly regarded across the league. If Gruden hadn’t brought him to the Raiders, another team would have hired him in a second.
Another lateral move for a coach is Bisaccia who left the Cowboys to take the exact same position under Gruden with whom he worked during his entire tenure with the Buccaneers. The longtime NFL Special Teams coach spent the past five years as in Dallas a step away from the head job behind Jason Garrett.
Another returning coach to Oakland is Tom Cable, who was the Raiders OLine coach in 2007-08 before being named head coach and serving in that job until 2010. While I don’t see Cable as an upgrade to Mike Tice, Cable has spent the past seven years as the Assistant Head coach and Offensive Line coach in Seattle with two trips to the Super Bowl and one win.
Cable has been coaching offensive lines since 1991, starting at UNLV and then at Cal for six years. It was after a stint as head coach at Idaho and then Offensive Coordinator at UCLA that he got the call to the NFL in 2006. In total, that’s 30 years coaching experience, 26 coaching the offensive line, 12 years at the NFL level, 3 years as a head coach, and 7 years as an Assistant Head Coach.
Yet another lateral move by an experienced veteran coach. Trgovac comes over from the Packers where he spent the past nine years as Defensive Line coach. He has been either a Dline coach or Defensive Coordinator the past 19 years, first with the Packers, then in Washington for two seasons in 2000-01.
He got his NFL start in Philadelphia in 1995 on the same staff Jon Gruden got his start as a young OC and the two worked together for three years before Gruden left to take over as head coach of the Raiders.
In total, Trgovac has 30 years of coaching experience, going back to his days as a college Dline coach.
Notable position coaches
On the other side of the spectrum is Brian Callahan. He is a rising star in the coaching ranks. He grew up in football and with the Raiders as his dad Bill Callahan has been in coaching his entire life. Bill’s second NFL job was as Jon Gruden’s Offensive Coordinator in Oakland in 1998 and taking over as head coach in 2002 when Gruden was traded to Tampa. Bill is still coaching to this day, having spent the past three seasons as the Oline coach in Washington under Jon’s brother Jay Gruden. Brian got into coaching at UCLA as a graduate assistant and has been an NFL QB coach for three seasons.
You know Callahan understands football. He’s been surrounded by it his entire life. And there’s no better place for a young up-and-coming coach on this staff than QB coach. With Gruden and Olson both as QB gurus, they don’t need the QB coach to be like the other experienced veteran coaches.
Reggie McKenzie is quite familiar with Bennett. When McKenzie left the Packers to become the GM in Oakland in 2012, Bennett was the team’s wide receivers coach. He would spend four seasons in that position before being promoted to Offensive Coordinator -- a position he held the past three seasons. He steps back into the role of WR coach with the Raiders.
One overall aspect that is entirely remarkable about all the above hires is, aside from Olson, none of them were promotions from lesser positions. And Olson only held the QB coach job one season having been an OC the previous four years, including two in Oakland.
Only Bennett takes a step down from his previous position and Cable no longer has the additional title of Assistant Head Coach. Other than that, it’s all lateral moves by well respected coaches. And aside from the QB coach -- which is the least important job of all of them — they are all extremely experienced coaches.