In recent weeks, the normally vacuous Peter King of NBC Sports has been a valuable source of information regarding the Raiders’ 2019 draft, as he was present with the team during draft weekend and got a lot of inside access that nobody else was privy to.
Levi Damien and myself recorded part of a podcast about his first report after the Draft, and today as part of King’s ‘Football Morning in America’ piece he’s recounted more of his conversations with Jon Gruden from draft weekend, this time about how serious the Raiders ever got about the possibility of trading up to the first overall pick to select Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.
“We all loved Murray. That doesn’t mean we were gonna take him. How do you not love his performance, his playing style, what he accomplished? I had a blast with him [when the Raiders worked him out pre-draft in Dallas]. We didn’t think about going up to number one. We did look at [Nick] Bosa, [Quinnen] Williams, but not going to one. We did our homework on the quarterbacks. You gotta know who’s coming into the league at that position. There was a lot of speculation that we were gonna take a quarterback. I kept watching a guy on NFL Network saying we’re going up to get Murray. Then he says we’re going up to get Haskins. Then he says we’re going up to get Lock. We’re trading Carr. I don’t understand it,” said Gruden.
The Raiders are known for being a clandestine, secretive organization that doesn’t like to let the media know what they’re doing or their innermost thoughts on anything. Reporters whose job it is to talk about the Raiders can pick up on any tiny bit of information and run with it, such as “the guy on NFL Network” who is clearly Ian Rapoport, clinging to the story that the Raiders were replacing Derek Carr well past the draft’s first round.
It’s not really a secret that Jon Gruden loved Kyler Murray, the Raiders worked him out and Gruden had been heard singing Murray’s praises at the Combine. But Mike Mayock and Gruden had maintained all offseason that Derek Carr was their guy, their franchise quarterback, and perhaps the only smokescreen or surprise here is that the Raiders were actually telling the truth.
The media doesn’t always, or ever, have to believe what teams have to say. Coaches and front office executives are professional liars, because if you come out and tell the truth you lose any leverage you might have had in negotiations or opportunity. War is deception, as Sun Tzu tells us, and every football team is at war with every other team at all times. Sometimes you get the Raiders saying “we won’t trade Khalil Mack” and sometimes they say “Derek Carr is our guy”.
It’s great that the Raiders didn’t move on from Carr in a quarterback class as weak as this one, but should Gruden really be surprised that the media didn’t believe him? Next year’s quarterback class will be the best one since 2004, and unless Carr comes out and has an MVP-type season, Gruden had better prepare for the same questions and skepticism as he faced going into the 2019 draft.