Undoubtedly a major factor for Jon Gruden agreeing to take over the Raiders job — I mean besides the ridiculous contract he’s getting — is that he will be taking over a team that has a lot of talent on it. A team that was 12-4 just a season ago and underachieved considerably this past season.
One of the strongest parts of the Raiders, which didn’t play at the same level they had played in 2016, was the offensive line. The veteran among them is Donald Penn, who will be entering his 12th NFL season.
“Coach Gruden, he’s coming into a good situation,” Penn told NFL Total Access Monday. “I joke with people, I kind of look at it like Steve Kerr when he got to the Warriors. Coach Gruden is coming to a great situation where he has a lot of pieces in place already. He’s not going to have to do too many things but tweak a couple of little things here.”
That’s quite a comparison considering the Warriors won an NBA Championships in Steve Kerr’s first season as head coach and have won two in his first three seasons.
One distinction Penn has is being one of just a handful of current NFL players still in the NFL to have played under Gruden. With Sebastian Janikowski’s contract up, Penn will be the only Raiders player to have played under Gruden. Penn spent his first two full NFL seasons as the starting left tackle for Gruden’s Buccaneers in 2007-08.
“Me knowing coach Gruden,” Penn continued, “his mentality and excitement and energy he’s going to bring, I don’t think there is any coach in the NFL that brings that kind of excitement. You hear him on Monday Night, you see how excited he is for football, so bringing that in, it’s going to trickle down through the building.”
Penn has already spoken with Gruden — who will be officially introduced as Raiders head coach on Tuesday — and he told him the mentality he and his Raiders teammates have right now after their disappointing season.
“I talked to coach Gruden,” said Penn. “I told him ‘Coach, you’re about to walk into a room full of hungry dogs that are hungry, mad, and upset.’ We’re mad. We’re not happy with the way we left last season. I’ve talked to the guys. I’ve talked to [Derek] Carr, I’ve talked to [Khalil] Mack, we’re not happy. We had our bar set high and we failed last year. We know what we did and we have that mentality and we have that hungriness of coming into this offseason to get it going and get back on track.”
He must be most excited about coming to a team with a franchise quarterback in place in Derek Carr. In his first stint in Oakland, he had to bring in veteran quarterback Rich Gannon and in Tampa, he never had a top flight quarterback. That had to be tough for a QB guru like Gruden.