The Jon Gruden era has restarted as he is officially the head coach of the Oakland Raiders again. When he’s introduced Tuesday, it will be a big day in Raiders history. Many have concerns about his return to coaching in the NFL after 10 years away from it. Art Shell, who came back and went 4-12 after 12 years away, comes to mind for them. The $100 million, 10-year contracts scares them even more.
But there is a history of head coaches coming back to succeed after a long time away. Dick Vermeil came back to win Super Bowl XXXIV after 15 years as an NFL TV analyst for ABC and NBC. Pete Carroll was out 11 years, nine of them at USC before coming back to win Super Bowl XLVIII, the first of his back-to-back Super Bowl trips.
Gruden is prepared
When a head coach is out of the game a long time, he has to be up on the ever-changing NFL. Like Vermeil, Gruden stayed up on things as ESPN’s Monday Night Football analyst. He’s able to see everything in the game from the broadcast booth. On top of all that, Gruden has been preparing himself for the day he would come back.
“I’ve met with several people – I won’t deny that,” Gruden told Pewter Report in July. “People—just about every year I talk about coming back to coach. I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball. You know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back.
“It helps me in my broadcasting and I think if you lose that edge . . . you can’t come back unless you are totally wired with college football, personnel, schemes, the CBA, how people are practicing, trends, you know. You’ve got stay on top of this stuff.”
Roster and staff
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has put together supremely talented roster on both sides of the ball. Derek Carr will be his quarterback he’s linked to for the foreseeable future. Then there are receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree with running back Marshawn Lynch and arguably the best offensive line in football. On defense, there’s interior defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., edge rusher Khalil Mack and 2017 first-round corner Gareon Conley.
In 2016, they had an explosive offense led by an average offensive coordinator in Bill Musgrave. In 2017, John Pagano, an average defensive coordinator, took over a struggling defense and had them playing Top-5 football for five of his six games.
Gruden appears to be on track to putting together a strong coaching staff. Greg Olson is expected to be his OC but we know Gruden will be in charge of the offense. Paul Guenther is expected to be the DC and Rich Bisaccia is expected to be the special teams coordinator. Guenther and Bisaccia are well respected around the NFL.
Gruden had a nice gig at ESPN but coaching is the man’s true passion. So, he knew he would come back one day and he took those steps to make sure he’s ready for it. The rest of it was making sure he has his QB and the roster to go with it. With the gravitas he has, assembling a coaching staff is the easy part so he is on his way.