It’s a question that begs to be asked seeing Gruden has been away from an NFL sideline since the end of the 2008 season. Most people amid the hoopla of his rehiring in Oakland forget he was let go after a 4 game losing streak knocked his Buccaneer team from the playoffs.
Now it has to be acknowledged Gruden was successful in his 1st tenure in Oakland. The Silver & Black posted a 40-28 record from 1998-2001 where they made the playoffs in the last two seasons. His Raiders built on the momentum of a 41-38 defeat of the Chiefs in an overtime season finale that knocked KC from the playoffs in ’99.
Over the next two years he built upon signing veterans who played in the West Coast system in RB Charlie Garner and WR Jerry Rice. Gruden and journeyman QB Rich Gannon had fashioned a short to intermediate passing game which pushed Gannon into the upper echelon of signal callers as the new decade dawned.
Although the Raiders made the postseason for the first time since 1990, then owner Al Davis struggled with Gruden over the offensive philosophy of the team. Davis still wanted the downfield passing approach he had helped pioneer with the Raiders since the 60’s. The problem was he didn’t have “The Greatest Show on Turf” Rams receivers nor Mike Martz passing attack he fancied. Davis watched as over in the NFC the Rams and Vikings 1998-2000 were setting league records throwing it deep and making it to Super Bowls.
Everyone had been telling Davis for years the game had passed him by and his system of football was dead. Yet he kept seeing Tory Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Randy Moss and kept envisioning Cliff Branch going deep and wanted it. So the inner struggle within the organization began.
Another struggle that started to surface in the 2001 season was tension between Gruden and some of his veteran players. His “Chucky” act was seeming to wear thin in a veteran laden locker room. That pushy constant grimmacing play to the camera demeanor and personality was coming off phony. To casual fans it wasn’t but long time football observers knew what they were watching. Go back and check the press clippings as the ’01 Raiders limped to the finish with a 3 game losing streak and lost the chance at homefield advantage as they had in 2000. Their reward?? You guessed it… a fateful trip to snowy Foxboro, Massachusetts. “The Tuck Rule” a playoff loss and Gruden became the first coach in modern history to be traded.
All of this was masked when the Buccaneers went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII. Gruden inherited a defense that turned in one of history’s finest performances allowing just 196 points and scoring 9 defensive touchdowns. With all that accidental scoring Gruden’s 2002 Bucs (346 points) barely outscored Tony Dungy’s 2001 Bucs with 324. They did have better play calls in the playoffs but Tampa had grown up and matured and it was just their time.
Ironically for Gruden’s ego and “Chucky” persona he has struggled with strong personalities over extended periods of time. Once the euphoria of the Super Bowl in Tampa faded they were a struggling 4-6 team the following season when this happened.
Remember a few other run ins with DE Simeon Rice along with finally deactivating Johnson? Now we fast forward with a Gruden 15 years older and he is going to get along with and manage millenials who have their own voice through social media?? Yeah right. Ask middle management America how that is going all across the country. Its the only reason we saw Gruden release P Marquette King when all accounts considered it a surprising release in the middle of June. Has he met outspoken DE/LB Bruce Irvin yet?? He was the first Seattle defender who openly questioned Pete Carroll’s goal line decision after Super Bowl XLIX.
For all his QB guru persona while on ESPN what is lost is how poorly his quarterbacks performed after Rich Gannon. Brian Griese, Tim Rattay, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McCown, then a retread Jeff Garcia and Brad Johnson. Yes he won the Super Bowl with a steady but unspectacular performance not turning the ball over. Yet Johnson was gone within 3 years. Somehow he is thought of as this great QB whisperer. He has one in Derek Carr and hopefully he can help him reach his full potential. Gruden doesn’t do well with young signal callers. Check his record.
Raider fans are praying this is going to work but we’ll see how long this “Chucky” scenario will last. Retread coaches rarely see success in their second tenures to the level of their first stop. Time will tell but The Chancellor of Football doesn’t see it happening.
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