That sounds like the confidence of someone that’s ready, despite his 10-year layoff. He did stay around the game as an analyst and prepare vigorously in advance for his return. He’s also coming back to a good team and put together a great coaching staff.
Monday Night Football
Gruden’s time as a Monday Night Football analyst will definitely help. Bill Belichick prepared his New England Patriots to win Super Bowls by taping opponents’ signals. Gruden was invited to all 32 teams’ facilities, watched them practice and saw all their inner workings.
He knows their strength and conditioning programs and how many plays they run per practice. So while many think the current CBA with reduced practice time will hurt, he has already adapted by practicing faster so his Raiders can get more reps than other NFL teams.
“We try to get more reps than anybody in the league,” Gruden said during the offseason program, “That’s one thing if I go down, you’ll be able to say the Raiders got more reps than anybody in football. (laughter) We’re going to try to lead the league in effort and try to lead the league in reps. Repetition is the mother of learning.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis has tried to get Gruden to come back the last six years. But it was last summer that Gruden told Pewter Report he was breaking down film on NFL teams to prepare for a comeback.
“I’ve met with several people they run they run—I won’t deny that,” Gruden said. “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.“
His players seem to have bought in and are impressed by Gruden’s preparation.
“To me, they have the answer for everything,” Gabe Jackson said about Gruden’s system at minicamp, “It’s a good system. I can’t go into details about it, but it takes some studying to get into it, to learn everything.”
“I mean, I bought in for sure because he knows what he’s talking about, and you can tell a difference in a coach that knows what he’s talking about and a coach that does not,” Jared Cook said at minicamp. “He knows what he’s talking about.”
The Raiders went 6-10 in 2017 but Gruden inherited a good roster, starting with franchise QB Derek Carr. And with him, he inherited the best offensive line in football. No. 1 receiver in Amari Cooper, Running back Marshawn Lynch, and tight end Jared Cook also came in the package. Since taking over, Gruden has added Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to load his offense even more.
On defense, he has Khalil Mack once he shows up and cornerback Gareon Conley once he’s healthy. And he got them plenty of help this offseason with players like CB Rashaan Melvin in free agency and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst in the draft. Moving Bruce Irvin from linebacker to DE is something to watch for too.
That horrendous 2017 made many forget they were 12-4 the previous season with the mostly the same players including a QB that finished No. 3 in NFL MVP voting in 2016 and an EDGE that was the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
This isn’t Art Shell in 2006 coming back with an offensive coordinator that spent his previous several years running a bed and breakfast. Gruden has Greg Olson, his last OC, who had Carr play well for a rookie in 2014 and as a QB coach elevated Jared Goff’s game in 2017 after he struggled as a rookie in 2016 with the Los Angeles Rams. He even made Josh Freeman look like a solid QB with the Buccaneers in 2010.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is known as one of the best blitz designers in the NFL and in his last four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, his defenses ranked in the top five in interceptions and opponents’ passer rating every year from 2014 through ’16 while the Raiders are close to if not the worst in recent years. Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia is known as one of the best at what he does too.
“I feel like I never left now,” Gruden said Monday at training camp. “I feel like when you get seven, eight days in training camp the nostalgia of everything is over now. We have to do something with this opportunity. It’s really great to be back and see the fans at practice. I like this team. I like where we’re going. We obviously have some issues that we need to get solved.”
So it appears his confidence hasn’t since starting training camp. Preparing the way he did, what he did with his time off, his personnel and his staff have done that for him.
Here’s a look at it all.