2018 NFL coaching changes: Oakland Raiders

2018 NFL coaching changes: Oakland Raiders

Coaching Change

2018 NFL coaching changes: Oakland Raiders

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Head Coach: Jon Gruden

Chucky’s back.

After honing his skills as a Mike Holmgren offensive assistant and wide receivers coach in Green Bay, Jon Gruden became the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator from 1995 through 1997.  He was selected as the Oakland Raiders head coach from 1998 until 2001 and brought them to the playoffs twice, including losing the AFC Championship game to the Ravens in 2000. It was then that he acquired the colorful moniker of “Chucky” from DT Grady Jackson. Gruden started with two 8-8 seasons, but then finished 12-4 and 10-6.

He was traded to the Buccaneers the next season in a swap involving cash and draft picks. Among the main reasons for the change was the desire of then-owner Al Davis for a deeper, vertical passing game instead of the shorter, horizontal style of the West Coast offense learned from Mike Holmgren.

Gruden would coach the Buccaneers for seven seasons, taking over from Tony Dungy in 2002 through 2008. He famously won the 2002 Super Bowl against the Raiders thanks in no small part to knowing everything about the personnel of the team he left behind. He later fell below .500 in three seasons largely due to injuries and ended 57-54 there. He was fired after going 9-7 and missing the playoffs when they lost their final four games.

After nine years as the color analyst on Monday Night Football, Gruden was lured back into coaching by the Raiders with an astounding $100 million, ten-year contract. Gruden’s history is all about the offense and he’s not one to just hand it all over to the offensive coordinator.  He’s a West Coast proponent that isn’t shy about a committee backfield if no single back can dominate the game.

Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson

Greg Olson has a lengthy resume on the offensive side. He coached college for his first 13 years and then landed with the Chicago Bears as the quarterbacks coach in 2003. Since then has been a string of two and three-year stints as offensive coordinator with the Lions, Rams, Buccaneers, Raiders, and Jaguars.  He was with the Raiders in 2013 and 2014. His most recent job was the quarterbacks coach for the Rams last year when Jared Goff came to life.

Olson joined the Buccaneers as their offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011. He overlapped with Gruden in 2008 during his final season. Brian Griese was lost in Week 5 and an aged Jeff Garcia served as the quarterback the rest of the way. It was Warrick Dunn’s final year and Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams shared the backfield. The Buccaneers never ranked better than No. 19 on offense while Olson was there.

His first season in Oakland was a mishmash of Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback with predictably poor results. More importantly, Olson was there in 2014 when the rookie Derek Carr passed for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns. He cobbled together a rushing attack using the aged Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, and Latavius Murray. The Raiders went 7-25 over those two years as head coach Dennis Allen served his final time in Oakland and was released along with Olson during the 2014 season.

Bottom Line

The Raiders offense was effective in 2016 under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave when Derek Carr passed for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns. A committee backfield totaled 1,793 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. But Musgrave was released after the Raiders lost to the Texans in the Wild Card round. Promoting the quarterback coach Todd Downing was not a positive. Derek Carr regressed and the addition of Marshawn Lynch failed to compensate for the loss of Latavius Murray.

Bringing in Gruden after his lengthy absence is a risk but obviously, one that the Raiders feel comfortable making. Gruden’s offenses were of the West Coast theme with a focus on ball control with shorter passing. But Gruden is not opposed to the occasional deep strike or trick play. His backfields were often committees and will be this year barring an unforeseen trade or early-round rookie.

Gruden will have a big hand in the offense as it is his specialty and will call the plays. That lessens the impact of Olson who was not successful during his first stint in Oakland. It is also why the Raiders did not attract a potentially better coordinator since Olson will mostly be a quarterbacks coach with a more impressive title.

The primary focus for Olson is to get Derek Carr back on track. It was later disclosed that Carr’s back injury was a factor during 2017. And Olson had success with Jared Goff last year. He was in Jacksonville when Blake Bortles threw for 4,428 yards and 35 scores in 2015. He’s suffered through a surprising number of offenses that were wracked by injury but also had success with several quarterbacks.

Carr was impressive in the past and will get every chance and resource to be successful. Gruden won’t stand for anything less. Carr should be a slam-dunk to see improvement in his stats and that obviously includes his primary receivers.

Even if the backfield is significantly upgraded, the new offense will still go through the arm of Carr.

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