In order to win at anything, you must first think like a winner, then you must discipline yourself to practice like a winner, and most importantly go out and win.
“Do your job” is a champions philosophy. In the past 17 years the New England Patriots have attributed five Lombardi trophies, eight trips to the big game, and nine straight division championships, to doing your job. Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, looks to emulate and expand on that mantra.
Competition brings out the best in players on the football field, and Gruden has repeatedly told his players they need to play, and no one has secured a job.
Gruden recently described his wide receiving corp as, “A competitive situation. Nothing is going to be given to anybody. It doesn’t matter how you got here or what your history card says, we need everybody to understand the best players are going to play.”
Complacency has frequented this organization far too much in the past. High-priced free agents, and some top draft picks, were not often pushed to continue playing at their highest level.
Gruden’s drive prevents anyone from being complacent. He constantly challenges his players mentally and physically. The game has evolved, becoming what some would deem 90% mental and 10% physical.
Losing mojo isn’t what happened to the 2017 Raiders, the schemes, were extremely limited in both intent and application. The wealth of information about the game of football which Gruden brings is opening doors for quarterback Derek Carr. In what was a funny exchange, Scott Bair tweeted this.
Jon Gruden on Derek Carr's performance in Raiders camp: "He's doing really well. He's doing really well. If the coach doesn't screw him up, we have a chance to have one heck of a quarterback."— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) August 5, 2018
What a difference a coach makes. While Carr would never speak ill of anyone, he has spoken of the value of his new coaching staff as compared to his previous one.
“We meet differently,” Carr said. “We’ll be watching film and out of nowhere Coach Gruden [will say,] ‘Derek, call the play. Where are you going with it? Derek, call the play. Where are you going with it? What’s the coverage? What’s the corners technique? What’s this? What’s that?’ And I’m answering it, bam, bam, like that. Every meeting. I have to be on my game in front of my teammates. It’s awesome, man. I absolutely love it.”
Carr is a cerebral player and has learned about the value of preparation from studying Peyton Manning. Manning happened to come by and visit the Raiders training camp, in Napa, Ca. In 3:26 of video gold, we heard Carr shamelessly take credit for stealing his warm-up routines, and looking for whatever tidbits he could get from “the sheriff.”
"You see I stole your warmup?"— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) August 3, 2018
Marshawn, Derek and Peyton talking shop is absolute gold pic.twitter.com/MbHBMCTZ3F
It is always a good thing, as a player, to have NFL former greats watch and critique your performance in practice. The respect Carr has for Manning, and his individual performances is massive as it should be. Manning is “one of the best to ever have done it.”
“I took full advantage of today, after whatever drill I would go, ‘Hey, how was communication? How was execution?’ And he’d give us feedback,” Carr said of Manning. “To have that from someone like Peyton, I think that’s kind of invaluable.”
A river of opportunity flows through training camp as every player on the roster has an opportunity to prove themselves in a new system, with a coach who demands new things. Gruden expects his players to be smart, physical, and disciplined. Guys are supposed to know what’s going on at all times, and communication must be clear at all times.
Challenging players mentally prepares them for different possibilities, outcomes, while forcing them to be able to think on their feet. Encouraging continued growth in both their own individual game, and collectively for the good of the team. Whether everything goes according to plan and the Raiders win big in 2018/19 remains to be seen, but a winning mindset is being laid in order to ensure long-term success.