Barnwell: How Jon Gruden’s roster-building left the Raiders in terrible shape, and what’s next

Barnwell: How Jon Gruden’s roster-building left the Raiders in terrible shape, and what’s next

As you’ve got absolutely heard by now, the Las Vegas Raiders and Jon Gruden parted ways on Monday. It goes with out saying that the emails uncovered as part of the NFL’s investigation into Daniel Snyder and the Washington Football Team had been abhorrent and unbecoming of a frontrunner. My colleagues have addressed Gruden’s firing, and what’s now left in the wake of his absence is a instantly rudderless Raiders group.

The franchise was rebuilt to Gruden’s specs after he took over as coach and de-facto football czar in 2018, and whereas common supervisor Mike Mayock and the remainder of the employees stay, there isn’t any doubt that issues will change with out him in cost. Special groups coordinator Rich Bisaccia has been given the interim job, and crew proprietor Mark Davis suggested Wednesday that the association of energy has moved from a cut up of 51% Gruden, 49% Mayock to 51% Mayock, 49% Bisaccia.

By the time we hit next offseason, the Raiders could be in a brand new association altogether. As the only coach with a 10-year contract, the one certain factor for the group gave the impression to be that Gruden would be in charge. Now, on the fly, every thing is altering.

Let’s consider the lasting results of Gruden’s second run with the Raiders in phrases of participant personnel and the place Mayock and Bisaccia — or whomever takes over in 2022 — sit with the present roster. Gruden took over a 6-10 crew that was one 12 months faraway from a 12-4 season and a visit to the postseason. The Raiders had been 22-31 in Gruden’s second tenure, and I’m undecided they are much nearer to the postseason than they had been earlier than he was employed. Let’s see the place the Raiders stand with 12 video games to go this season.

Jump to a piece:
The big trades | The draft record
Free-agency issues | The roster
What’s next? | Postmortem

Gruden’s massive trades

Gruden’s most important personnel strikes got here early in his run, as he tore aside the younger core of former common supervisor Reggie McKenzie’s groups. With two trades, Gruden dealt away cornerstones on each side of the soccer in edge rusher Khalil Mack and broad receiver Amari Cooper. In return, he netted 4 excessive draft picks, together with three first-rounders. Those picks grew to become working again Josh Jacobs, cornerback Damon Arnette, security Johnathan Abram and broad receiver Bryan Edwards.

These strikes set again the franchise considerably. Jacobs has struggled with accidents and would not have a job in the passing sport at a place in which two-down backs are available for the veterans minimal. Arnette was accountable for the protection breakdown on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s big play at the end of the game in the crucial Week 16 loss to the Dolphins final season; he misplaced his beginning job in camp and has been the topic of commerce rumors. Abram missed all of his rookie season with an harm and was a large number in protection in Year 2. He has been higher this season, however his most notable second has been getting stiff-armed by Pittsburgh Steelers working again Najee Harris. Edwards, the solely considered one of the 4 to not be drafted in the first spherical, appears to be the most promising participant amongst them.

Gruden repeatedly traded for veterans over the course of his tenure, and these strikes virtually universally failed. The most notable got here when the crew sent third- and fifth-round picks to the Steelers for receiver Antonio Brown, which failed in ignominious vogue before Brown ever suited up for the team.

I could not fault the Raiders for that deal at the time, however Gruden’s different offers for broad receivers seemed unhealthy at first look and bought worse rapidly. The Raiders sent a third-rounder to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant and then reduce him at the finish of camp. Defensive finish Jihad Ward was shipped off for Ryan Switzer, who was then dealt away for a swap of late-round picks with out having performed for the crew. The Raiders sent a fifth-rounder to the Bills for Zay Jones and a sixth-rounder to the Packers for Trevor Davis, who was reduce after two and a half months. The Packers used that choose on Jon Runyan, who’s now beginning for Green Bay at guard.

Receiver wasn’t the solely spot in which the Raiders traded picks for gamers with restricted success. Gruden shipped a fifth-round pick to the Bills for quarterback AJ McCarron, who threw a complete of three passes earlier than leaving. The seventh-rounder Gruden sent the Jets for QB Christian Hackenberg was a conditional choose, fortunately. Last 12 months, the Raiders swapped midround picks with the Dolphins to accumulate linebacker Raekwon McMillan; he performed a complete of 169 defensive snaps earlier than leaving the crew. McMillan served as a special-teamer, however that is the kind of participant organizations ought to be capable to discover with the late-round picks Gruden was transport away in failed swaps.



Booger McFarland shares his ideas on the reviews Jon Gruden is out as the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach.

Gruden’s monitor document of buying and selling up and down in the draft was extra combined. He had success buying and selling down in his first draft to accumulate offensive deal with Kolton Miller, Gruden’s most profitable first-round choose. He additionally moved up for broad receiver Hunter Renfrow, however trades up for defensive deal with Maurice Hurst, edge rusher Arden Key and offensive lineman Brandon Parker weren’t profitable. It’s tough to take a look at Gruden’s monitor document of buying and selling as far more than a brutal failure.

Gruden’s draft document

Gruden oversaw 4 drafts, which signifies that we needs to be seeing his picks make up the core of the present Vegas crew and the groups we’ll see over the next couple of seasons. Let’s check out the picks he remodeled the first three rounds of the 2018, 2019, and 2020 drafts:




We’ve already mentioned a few of these picks. Ferrell, the highest-drafted participant of the Gruden period at No. 4 general, was viewed as a significant overdraft at the time and hasn’t seemed like an influence participant at any level of his profession. The former Clemson pass-rusher misplaced his beginning job this offseason and was a wholesome scratch in Week 1. He has performed 18% of the defensive snaps this season. The next participant chosen in that first spherical was linebacker Devin White, who has turn out to be considered one of the league’s greatest gamers at his place for the Bucs.

The solely first-rounder we have not mentioned is Ruggs, who has flashed vital potential whereas struggling to command a big goal share. The hope is of course that he takes a step ahead in his second season, in which he is on tempo to rack up 1,113 receiving yards (though his common of 20.5 yards per reception will probably be robust to maintain). He was the first wideout taken in a draft that included CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman and Chase Claypool; he would not be the first wideout off the board in a redraft right now.

It would not get significantly better after the first spherical. Miller has been a stable deal with, however Parker was unhealthy as a rookie and hasn’t been trusted as greater than a swing deal with since. Hall and Key are not on the roster. Neither is Bowden, who was moved to a “Joker” function as a hybrid working again/broad receiver after being drafted. He was traded before ever playing with the Raiders, who despatched him with a sixth-round choose to Miami for a fourth-round choice. Muse was additionally launched with out ever taking part in a snap for the Raiders. Two of the their three third-rounders from 2020 are not on their roster; of the different 39 gamers drafted, only one has been reduce or traded (Jabari Zuniga of the Jets).

In all, whereas acknowledging that there is loads of time left on the clock for these younger gamers, the solely gamers the Raiders would take once more at their similar spots would most likely be Miller, Mullen and Edwards. That’s a catastrophe for a crew that had six first-round picks over this span.

It’s too early to say something about the 2021 class, however as was the case with Ferrell and Jacobs, the Raiders used a first-round choose on offensive deal with Alex Leatherwood when most public sources pegged him as a midround selection. Leatherwood struggled sufficient at proper deal with for the Raiders to maneuver him to protect throughout the Week 5 loss to the Bears. Teams generally take prospects a lot increased than public notion and show to be proper, as the Cowboys did with center Travis Frederick in 2013. It’s too early to make any proclamations about Leatherwood, but when he would not pan out, the Raiders could have repeatedly gone in opposition to the grain and been improper about it each time.

The greatest choose Gruden made throughout his time in cost was possible somebody taken outdoors the high 100: edge rusher Maxx Crosby, a 2019 fourth-round choose. The Eastern Michigan product racked up 10 sacks as a rookie, and whereas he has solely two sacks in 5 video games to begin 2021, he has been a constant disruptor and has 13 quarterback hits this season. Renfrow, taken a spherical later, has confirmed to be a useful slot receiver. Those are good finds, however the Raiders additionally used a fifth-round choose on a punter in Johnny Townsend, who lasted a season earlier than being launched.



Keyshawn Johnson appears again at his two years taking part in beneath Jon Gruden.

Naturally, it is tough to parse the duty for these picks between Gruden and Mayock, whose main work over the prior decade had been as a draft analyst for NFL Network earlier than becoming a member of the Raiders in 2019. Given how poorly the high picks have carried out and how lengthy Gruden had left on his contract, it is completely attainable that Mayock would have been the fall man for a disappointing 2021 season. Now, that is not the case.

The straightforward reply is to say that they each deserve a few of the blame, as a result of it is inconceivable to know why the picks are failing. Are the Raiders struggling to convey by means of younger expertise as a result of they’re choosing the improper gamers? Or are they choosing helpful gamers and struggling to develop them into viable starters? There’s one purpose to assume that the latter could be the greater drawback with Vegas …

Gruden in free company

… That purpose? That nearly each vital free agent who got here to play for the Raiders seemed a lot worse in silver and black than they’d in their prior cease. Free company is not the greatest option to construct a roster, however it’s arduous to consider a crew that has gotten much less out of its vital signings than the Raiders over the previous a number of seasons. Here’s each free agent, with a median annual wage of $5 million or extra, the Raiders added over the Gruden period, and what occurred next:


  • WR Jordy Nelson (two years, $14.2 million): reduce after one season

  • LB Tahir Whitehead (three years, $19 million): misplaced beginning function in Year 2, reduce

  • CB Rashaan Melvin (one 12 months, $5.5 million): began seven video games


  • OT Trent Brown (4 years, $66 million): began 16 video games over two seasons, wage dumped to NE

  • WR Tyrell Williams (4 years, $44.3 million): began one sport over two seasons, reduce

  • S LaMarcus Joyner (Four years, $42 million): moved to CB, benched in Year 2, reduce


  • LB Cory Littleton (three years, $35.3 million): suffered drastic decline in play

  • LB Nick Kwiatkoski (three years, $21 million): misplaced beginning job after one season

  • EDGE Carl Nassib (three years, $25.3 million): 4 sacks in 19 video games

  • QB Marcus Mariota (two years, $17.6 million): 28 move makes an attempt with LAR

  • DT Maliek Collins (one 12 months, $6 million): one QB hit in 504 snaps


  • EDGE Yannick Ngakoue (Two years, $26 million): two sacks in 5 video games

  • RB Kenyan Drake (Two years, $11 million): taking part in virtually solely as receiving again, averaging 2.4 yards per carry

That’s a brutal checklist, and it would even undersell how dramatically these gamers dropped off. Whitehead, Nelson and Littleton went from being wonderful in their prior spots to wildly disappointing with the Raiders. Williams might need been unfortunate with accidents — and Mariota hasn’t been wanted fairly often behind Derek Carr — however the franchise has no one however itself guilty with somebody reminiscent of Joyner. The 2014 second-rounder had bounced round the Rams’ protection earlier than settling at free security, the place he emerged as a star. The Raiders promptly signed him and moved him again to fit nook, the place he struggled wildly for 2 season earlier than being launched.

On the different hand, the greatest transfer the crew made throughout the Gruden period was a a lot much less notable free-agent signing. After Darren Waller dealt with substance abuse and moved to tight finish, the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s follow squad in 2018. He emerged as considered one of the most fun tight ends in all of soccer in 2019. They rapidly moved to sign him to a four-year, $29.8 million deal that October. At that price ticket, he’s considered one of the league’s most beneficial non-quarterbacks on a veteran deal.

Owing to the lacking draft picks and the disappointing top-100 picks, the Raiders have wanted to be lively in signing veterans to short-term, low-cost offers in free company. The overwhelming majority of these contracts are one-year pacts. The Raiders could be proud of gamers reminiscent of Casey Hayward Jr., Solomon Thomas and K.J. Wright, and their contracts are cheap, however they’re all free brokers after the season.

What’s left on the roster

The Raiders have considered one of the league’s least spectacular cores. A coach or a common supervisor trying to construct the group can be Miller and Crosby as the solely under-25 gamers on whom they’ll rely as above-average starters. A second tier may embrace gamers who’ve proven some promise however have not been persistently impactful, reminiscent of Edwards, Ruggs and Mullen, plus anybody who emerges from the 2021 class, with fifth-round nook Nate Hobbs off to a promising begin. Waller simply turned 29, and Carr is 30. Both will probably be in search of new offers after the season. So will Jacobs and Renfrow, who’re helpful, albeit at positions in which it is usually straightforward to seek out helpful gamers. The Raiders merely aren’t in the similar universe in phrases of core expertise as the different groups in the AFC West.

They have been in a position to method league-average play by staying environment friendly and efficient on offense. Gruden’s greatest asset as a coach was getting the most out of his offensive expertise, particularly in the passing sport. Carr’s greatest seasons got here in 2019 and 2020. Waller went from being a practice-squad participant to a celebrity. Every crew handed on Renfrow a number of occasions. Receiver Nelson Agholor was essentially a meme earlier than producing a profession season with the Raiders in 2020.

These guys aren’t going to instantly flip into afterthoughts with out Gruden round, and the protection has been significantly better in 2021 than it was throughout the first three years of his regime, however the last sport of his tenure was an instance of how this crew would look if the offense is not as much as its prior degree of play. In a 20-9 defeat to the Bears, the Raiders had been buried with subpar area place, did not have a single play produce 30 yards or extra and scored 9 factors on 10 possessions. Vegas’ 3-0 begin marked the third 12 months in a row in which it has loved a three-game successful streak in some unspecified time in the future throughout the season, however after the previous two-plus weeks, it seems like one other lifetime.

What’s next for the Raiders

ESPN’s Football Power Index provides the Raiders a 31.7% probability to make the playoffs. Making it to the postseason would most likely encourage Davis to stay with the mixture of Mayock and Bisaccia into 2022. If they fall quick, they’d presumably look to rent one other coach, though Mayock’s future in that situation can be unclear. Former head coaches reminiscent of Gus Bradley, Tom Cable and Rod Marinelli are additionally on employees, so it is attainable the Raiders may determine to advertise considered one of their different assistants into the head function, as the Browns did after they named Freddie Kitchens head coach forward of interim coach Gregg Williams earlier than the 2019 season.

I’m undecided this will probably be a very interesting job. Vegas will probably be an thrilling vacation spot at no cost brokers, however the expertise hole between the Raiders and the remainder of the division is obvious. Davis has been prepared to spend on expertise, and he’ll be saving cash by not paying the remaining $60 million or so left on Gruden’s deal.

At the similar time, contemplate what occurred earlier than Gruden arrived. Former common supervisor McKenzie took over a crew that was in horrific salary-cap form and lacking draft picks after years of disastrous selections by Al Davis and months of poor decisions from former coach Hue Jackson. McKenzie’s Raiders ate practically $77 million in lifeless cash over 2012 and 2013 and started to work their manner again. After drafting Mack and Cooper, they jumped from 3-13 in 2014 to 7-9 in 2015 and 12-4 in 2016. Their document was inflated by an unsustainable performance in one-score games, however for a crew that hadn’t been to the playoffs or posted a successful document since 2002, 12-4 is 12-4.

A 12 months later, Davis bought distracted by shiny issues and fired coach Jack Del Rio after a disappointing season to present Gruden full management of soccer operations (McKenzie was let go in December 2018). That instance goes to be in the again of anybody’s thoughts in the event that they get approached by the group. The next man most likely is not getting a 10-year deal.

What we realized

Gruden’s second act with the Raiders was an unqualified failure. Focusing solely on his work over the previous few years, it was a failure in exactly the ways we would have expected based on his time in Tampa Bay. He did a stable job of working the offense and bought nearly every thing else improper. Virtually each considered one of his vital personnel selections turned out to be a mistake. He dismantled the group and turned the core he inherited into pennies on the greenback.



Stephen A. Smith believes Jon Gruden’s profession is completed after reviews of offensive emails he wrote over a 10-year interval.

Organizations ought to be taught from the tenures of Gruden and Jacksonville’s Urban Meyer, the other coach who was in the spotlight earlier than Gruden resigned. Both would qualify as offensive minds with success in their previous. They had been every charismatic on tv and able to convincing possession that they had been single-handedly able to turning round their fallen franchises. They had been every given management of soccer operations regardless of the proven fact that Meyer has by no means been concerned with professional personnel and Gruden’s monitor document as soccer czar in Tampa, Florida, was spotty at greatest.

If you are hiring a coach, giving him full management of soccer operations and resting the whole group on his shoulders, you higher make certain he is as much as the process. Even earlier than the revelations of the previous few days, it was clear that Gruden was not.

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