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Jon Gruden Fails to Show Why He’s the Raiders’ $100 Million Man

Category: Other Sports,Sports

Tough start for Jon Gruden.

After almost a decade in the broadcast booth, Gruden returned to the sidelines this season with one of his old teams, the Raiders. So eager was Oakland to reunite with Gruden that it signed him to a 10-year, $100 million contract. With nine years and 15 games to go, the deal is not looking brilliant so far. In Gruden’s first game back, his Raiders were soundly outplayed and out-coached by the Rams in a 33-13 loss.

The bad news for Gruden actually began a day before the game. In the first high-profile trade of the Gruden era, the Raiders sent one of the game’s top defensive players, Khalil Mack, who was involved in a contract dispute, to the Bears last week for draft picks, including two first-rounders.

It remains to be seen how those draft picks turn out, but Mack, 27, was outstanding in the Bears’ opener on Sunday. Despite little time with his new teammates, he forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.

The Raiders would have struggled to pay Mack what he wanted, in part because of a $25 million-a-year deal for quarterback Derek Carr. But Gruden also elected to cut receiver Michael Crabtree, who caught passes for 2,543 yards in three seasons with the Raiders. Crabtree had a touchdown for the Ravens in his opener.

Gruden was hired on his reputation as a brilliant offensive mind and game strategist who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (against the Raiders) and reached an A.F.C. Championship Game in his first stint with Oakland.

Game 1 Monday night started off well for the Raiders. They scored on their first possession and led by 13-10 at halftime. Carr was completing passes, and Marshawn Lynch was gaining yards. He even bulled his way to an impressive touchdown.

But in the second half, the Raiders were outscored, 23-0. Carr started missing open receivers. He threw a painful interception. He rushed his throws. Meanwhile, the Rams’ offense, led by Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, lifted its game, and the Raiders’ defense couldn’t stop it. The Raiders also wound up with 11 penalties for a league-leading 155 yards.

Carr finished 29 of 40 for 303 yards, but he had three interceptions and no touchdowns for a poor 4.2 adjusted yards per attempt figure. He was particularly bad in the stretch when the game was lost: the third quarter and early fourth quarter.

Crabtree’s main replacement, Jordy Nelson, had three catches for 23 yards. Many of the Oakland fans booed the home team when the game ended.

“Obviously, I don’t think it was a smashing debut, by any sense; we need to get more pass rush,” Gruden said afterward, perhaps unwisely bringing to mind the missing Mack.

Gruden has a 95-82 record and a Super Bowl ring as a head coach, so it would be unfair to judge him on one game. And several of his contemporaries making their own debuts struggled, too: New coaches were 0-7 in Week 1.


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