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It’s getting mighty crowded under Jon Gruden’s bus these days

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders owner Mark Davis made headlines this past offseason signing Jon Gruden to a massive $10-year contract worth up to $100 million. We’re just nine months into the Gruden era with just one game played. And thus far the one area we know he has mastered is the blame game.

Obviously Gruden’s biggest and most controversial decision since returning to the NFL sidelines was to trade 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. A move for which Gruden has taken plenty of heat.

Aside from the criticism of trading the team’s best player and arguably the best defender in the NFL, there was heavy criticism of the compensation Oakland received in the deal, which included sending the Bears a second round pick. Gruden’s answer was denying any any part of that decision, putting the blame on Reggie McKenzie.

“I really wasn’t involved in all of that, so you’d have to ask Reggie to be honest with you,” Gruden said in a press conference.

That claim is difficult to believe in light of the fact that Gruden was given the keys to the entire organization the minute Mark Davis paid him $100 million to run the franchise. But under the bus went Reggie McKenzie.

Gruden didn’t stop there. He put that bus in reverse and ran over his GM again. After being questioned as to whether trading a third round pick for Martavis Bryant was a miscalculation after his release from the team, Gruden justified the move by blaming McKenzie’s draft history.

“I don’t think so,” Gruden said. “I think the guy is a superb talent. The guy has great talent. We released our second-round draft choice last year and the year before and the year before that. Not everything is a perfect science, but we’ll be criticized for that. It was a risk I thought well worth taking. Perhaps we get Martavis again next year and we can get the best out of him.”

There is no denying that since the 2014 NFL Draft that yielded Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Gabe Jackson, the Raiders general manager has missed on a majority of his picks. But that is completely unrelated to Gruden giving up a third round pick for a player with a history of suspensions and a lack of production. Sure, Bryant combined for 14 touchdowns during his first two seasons in the league. But after being suspended several times including the entirety of the 2016 season, he was benched in favor of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster and recorded just 603 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2017.

So it should have been no surprise when Bryant struggled to learn the playbook in Training Camp and was ultimately cut due to a possible looming suspension. That sounds a lot like a miscalculation.

Speaking of miscalculations...

After Gruden and the rest of the Raiders front office was slammed for dealing Mack to the Bears, Gruden appeared on ESPN and trotted out the old ‘he didn’t want to be here’ line.

“Obviously, Khalil Mack didn’t want to play here,” Gruden stated. “That’s what’s being missed here. He was under contract, Lisa, you know he was under contract. He never showed up for an OTA’s, he never showed up for training camp and it was obvious he wasn’t going to show up for the season, so don’t forget that. We have to get ready to play, and I want players that want to be here, that want to help us put this thing back in high gear.”

Mack held out was because he wanted to be paid what his market value demanded. Once Aaron Donald signed a six-year, $135 million contract with the Rams, Mack’s market was set. He wanted to play in Oakland, Gruden simply refused to pay him. The Raiders head coach made that clear after the Bears signed Mack to a record six-year, $141 million extension including $90 million guaranteed.

“We made an offer,” Gruden explained. “I don’t believe we were anywhere close to where the Bears were.”

There’s the true reason Mack held out. Not because he didn’t want to be a Raider, but because the Raiders’ offer wasn’t “anywhere close” to his market value.

Gruden, of all people, should understand Mack’s perspective. For as often as Gruden has claimed he would have coached for free, it ultimately took $100 million to convince him to coach again. You might say he ‘held out’ from a return to coaching until he felt his contract merited his market value.

Nobody is safe from the wheels of Gruden’s bus, not even franchise quarterback Derek Carr.

After the Raiders’ embarrassing 33-13 loss to the Rams, Gruden was questioned why Amari Cooper finished the game with just one reception for nine yards.

Cooper was open deep, he was open a couple times,” Gruden explained. “For whatever reason, we didn’t go there.”

What the head coach is essentially saying is that he called plays that got Cooper open, but his quarterback failed to throw the ball to him, therefore it is not Gruden’s fault Cooper finished with just nine receiving yards. The statement is accurate to an extent, as Carr did miss a wide-open Cooper numerous times throughout the game. But was it really necessary for Gruden to relieve himself of any accountability and place it all on his quarterback?

Ultimately, the proclaimed quarterback guru was paid $100 million to fix Carr as the offensive coordinator and the primary quarterbacks coach. It’s his job to coach the Raiders franchise quarterback, and a poor performance from Carr reflects just as poorly on Gruden.

A wise man once said, “When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” It is time for the Raiders head coach to take a look in the mirror. No more excuses, just win baby.