Jon Gruden will fix the Oakland Raiders

TJ Porreca,

The Oakland Raiders have invested an estimated total of $225 million in quarterback Derek Carr and head coach Jon Gruden over the next decade. Last season, Carr signed a five-year contract worth $125 million and Gruden officially returned to the Raiders on Jan. 9 with a 10-year contract reportedly worth $100 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Gruden and Carr are now the two most important people in the Raiders organization. If Oakland is going to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 season in which the Raiders went 6-10, Gruden needs Carr to throw more touchdowns. This has the potential to lead to more wins.

For years, Gruden has been praised as an offensive guru. If Carr is able to stay healthy after he suffered hand, leg and back injuries in the past two years, he will benefit from Gruden’s expertise.

For Oakland to improve on an abysmal 2017, Gruden will need to put Carr in a position to succeed, which is his biggest task as Oakland’s new coach.

In 2017, Carr struggled as he suffered a transverse process fracture in his back in week four. Carr missed just one week even though the injury carried an initial recovery period of up to six weeks.

The persistent problem for the Raiders last season is even when Carr was on the field he ranged from average to ineffective. Carr threw for 3,496 yards in 2017, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2014, when he threw for a career-low 3,270 yards according to But part of the reason Gruden joined the Raiders is the potential Carr has shown in the past.

Frequently, Carr looked uncomfortable in the pocket as he turned the ball over at inopportune times last season. But in taking the Raiders’ coaching job, Gruden must be confident that Carr’s poor 2017 season was an outlier. Gruden was in high-demand around the NFL and often times having a talented quarterback in place is a prerequisite for luring a good coach.  

For Gruden to fix the Raiders, he and Carr need to have a strong bond. The duo will have an interesting opportunity together. Gruden will call the offensive plays himself, rather than delegating the task to an offensive coordinator, which is how most teams traditionally operate.

While Gruden has not coached in the NFL since 2008, he will likely bring fresh ideas to the table after nearly a decade as an NFL broadcaster with ESPN. Gruden’s role at ESPN gave him unique access to the teams he covered each week on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Through this access, Gruden surely learned how other coaching staffs conducted business and received insight into the types of plays and formations coaches around the league valued.

Gruden could seemingly be at a disadvantage in that he hasn’t coached in a decade. The game of football and its players have evolved in the time since Gruden last roamed the sidelines with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008.

However, Gruden is a unique case because of his prominent analyst role in “Monday Night Football.” This could bode well for the Raiders, who are getting a revitalized Gruden to lead the way as head coach.

Gruden, who coached the Raiders previously from 1998 to 2001, has an impenetrable reputation as a tireless worker who demands as much out of his players as possible. Former Raiders quarterback and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon, who played for Gruden from 1999 to 2001, told The Mercury News on Jan. 9 that Carr will have to change his work routine to meet Gruden’s standards.

“I don’t care how hard Derek has worked before — he’s going to have to change his work habits a little bit to fit in,” Gannon told The Mercury News.

While Carr’s reputation is nowhere near lazy, Gruden will have high expectations for Carr and Oakland’s offense.

Carr has shown an abundance of talent in the past, as he was in the MVP conversation in 2016 before he broke his leg against the Indianapolis Colts. Gruden knows Carr has the talent to lead the Raiders to the playoffs and that’s likely a large reason why he took the Raiders job.

But Carr will need to improve on his 2017 season in order for the Raiders to have any level of success. And Gruden, a driven offensive mastermind, will be the right coach to help Carr find his stride and get the Raiders back on track in 2018.