When Jon Gruden was announced as Raiders head coach this offseason, I asked him what he learned the past nine years as a Monday Night Football analyst.
“Look, I’ve gotten to see every facility in the league,” Gruden said of what he’s learned in his time away from the sideline. “I’ve had a chance to watch practices and see how they conduct training camps. I’ve had the chance to learn and see some things that I’ve never gotten to see as a coach. I’ve had a chance to study different offenses, different defenses, and the chance to get into personnel more.”
In his first draft since returning as Raiders head coach, he used that experience to make a trade for the kind of receiver this team has been lacking.
“We’ve been looking for a size receiver, a big receiver,” Gruden said of Martavis Bryant. “He’s big, he’s 6-foot-4. We’re looking for a fast receiver and he’s fast, he runs sub 4.4. So he has size, he has speed. I’ve seen the Steelers practice in my previous position. The man knows how to practice. The guy knows how to prepare.
“He’s been through a lot in his life and he’s got something to prove and I think we’re catching him at the right time. Mike Tomlin is a friend of mine. I coached with Mike and I got a lot of confidence in this young man. I think a change of scenery can unleash his greatness and put him in the line up with Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper and Jared Cook and Derek Carr excites me a lot.”
To send a third round pick to acquire a guy who was suspended for an entire season after multiple failed drug tests, you have to have a pretty good feeling about a guy. Enough so that you are willing to take on that risk, especially on a guy with just one year left on his rookie deal.
“It’s a clean slate and a fresh start for me,” said Bryant. “I’ve got a lot to prove. I don’t want to be just a one-dimensional player. I have a lot to work on, all aspects of my game. I’m going to do that, just to prove to myself that I can be great.”
Reggie McKenzie said he did his research on Bryant when he was in the draft. And he laid it on thick how much they liked him.
“No question, absolutely,” McKenzie said with enthusiasm. “When you get a guy this size, the way he ran, he was going to be a threat. We are excited to add him to our roster right now. I’m sure he’s going to elevate our offense and elevate this team.”
McKenzie was so excited about the possibilities of adding Bryant back in 2014 that he passed on the Clemson wide receiver five times. Bryant was selected in the fourth round, two spots after the Raiders selected safety Keith McGill.
Now sending a third rounder for him is further proof that Jon Gruden is making the calls in the Raiders draft room.