I have no doubts about Jon Gruden coming back to the Oakland Raiders as the head coach. He has stayed in close contact with the game over his hiatus so he’ll hit the ground running. Doubts don’t come in until looking at Gruden’s ability to put a solid roster together.
In his first go-round with the Raiders, with Al Davis picking the players, he went 38-16 and to one AFC Championship game. Then he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and won the Super Bowl after going 12-4 with Tony Dungy’s team. When in control of personnel with the Buccaneers, he went 45-51 and it ultimately got him fired in 2008.
While in retirement in 2014, he implored Mark Davis to draft Johnny Manziel at No. 5 overall. Of course, general manager Reggie McKenzie took defensive end Khalil Mack there, quarterback Derek Carr at No. 36 and the rest is history.
Now back with the Raiders to join Mack and Carr, Gruden has basically taken over the personnel department. And in free agency this offseason, he’s made some solid moves and some that are up for questioning.
Cutting Michael Crabtree and signing Jordy Nelson could be a good move. Adding Rashaan Melvin to start across from Gareon Conley at cornerback also looks like a good move. Some of the lesser names he signed for depth and competition were solid as well.
While I would call cutting All-Pro punter Marquette King, a great move, I can live with it. The most troubling move was signing linebacker Tahir Whitehead while NaVorro Bowman is unsigned.
Whitehead is a 2-down linebacker who can’t cover and the Raiders are giving him $6 million a year. Bowman was Pro Football Focus’ No. 11-ranked LB in 2017 to No. 25 for Whitehead while just two years older. His coverage grade of 77 is great when you consider he was fresh off an Achilles tear. It beats the heck out of Whitehead’s coverage grade of just 45.5.
You can say the Raiders will just draft Roquan Smith at No. 10 overall this year to solve that. But he’s not stout enough at the point of attack to play MIKE like Bowman is. And if the Raiders put Whitehead at the MIKE, they’ll still get exposed in coverage or have to put the earpiece in the helmet of a LB that stays on the field on passing downs.
So unless Whitehead has some coverage skills he hasn’t shown throughout his career, Gruden needs to bring back Bowman. If he doesn’t, he better do something about the MIKE position in the draft, where he doesn’t have a good track record. In seven years, his drafting hasn’t been very pretty outside of CB Aqib Talib in 2008. So there is reason to be a little concerned about Gruden the GM going into this year’s draft.
What do you think?
Do you trust Jon Gruden to be in charge of all personnel moves?
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