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

As you’ve got certainly heard by now, the Las Vegas Raiders and Jon Gruden parted methods on Monday. It goes with out saying that the emails uncovered as a part of the NFL’s investigation into Daniel Snyder and the Washington Soccer Group have been abhorrent and unbecoming of a pacesetter. My colleagues have addressed Gruden’s resignation, and what’s now left within the wake of his absence is a abruptly rudderless Raiders group.

The franchise was rebuilt to Gruden’s specs after he took over as coach and de facto soccer czar in 2018, and whereas common supervisor Mike Mayock and the remainder of the workers stay, there is no doubt that issues will change with out him in cost. Particular groups coordinator Wealthy Bisaccia has been given the interim job, and group proprietor Mark Davis prompt Wednesday that the association of energy has moved from a cut up of 51% Gruden, 49% Mayock, to 51% Mayock, 49% Bisaccia.

By the point we hit subsequent offseason, the Raiders could be in a brand new association altogether. As the one coach with a 10-year contract, the one positive factor for the group appeared to be that Gruden can be in cost. Now, on the fly, all the things is altering.

Let’s consider the lasting results of Gruden’s second run with the Raiders by way 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 group that was one yr faraway from a 12-4 season and a visit to the postseason. The Raiders have been 22-31 in Gruden’s second tenure, and I am unsure they are much nearer to a title than they have been earlier than he was employed. Let’s have a look at the place the Raiders stand with 12 video games to go this season.

Bounce to a piece:
The large trades | The draft document
Free-agency points | The roster
What’s subsequent? | 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 either 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. These choices 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 does not have a task within the passing sport at a place during which two-down backs are available for the veterans minimal. Arnette was chargeable for the protection breakdown on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s massive play on the finish of the sport within the essential 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 Yr 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 one one of many 4 to not be drafted within the first spherical, seems to be to be probably the most promising participant amongst them.

Gruden repeatedly traded for veterans over the course of his tenure, and people strikes nearly universally failed. Probably the most notable got here when the group despatched third- and fifth-round picks to the Steelers for receiver Antonio Brown, which failed in ignominious vogue earlier than Brown ever suited up for the group.

I could not fault the Raiders for that deal on the time, however Gruden’s different offers for broad receivers appeared unhealthy at first look and acquired worse rapidly. The Raiders despatched a third-rounder to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant after which minimize him on 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 group. The Raiders despatched a fifth-rounder to the Payments for Zay Jones and a sixth-rounder to the Packers for Trevor Davis, who was minimize after two and a half months. The Packers used that choose on Jon Runyan, who’s now beginning for Inexperienced Bay at guard.

Receiver wasn’t the one spot during which the Raiders traded picks for gamers with restricted success. Gruden shipped a fifth-round choose to the Payments for quarterback AJ McCarron, who threw a complete of three passes earlier than leaving. The seventh-rounder Gruden despatched the Jets for QB Christian Hackenberg was a conditional choose, fortunately. Final yr, 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 group. McMillan served as a special-teamer, however that is the type of participant organizations ought to be capable of discover with the late-round picks Gruden was delivery away in failed swaps.



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

Gruden’s observe document of buying and selling up and down within the draft was extra blended. He had success buying and selling down in his first draft to accumulate offensive sort out Kolton Miller, Gruden’s most profitable first-round choose. He additionally moved up for broad receiver Hunter Renfrow, however trades up for defensive sort out Maurice Hurst, edge rusher Arden Key and offensive lineman Brandon Parker weren’t profitable. It is tough to have a look at Gruden’s observe 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 prevailing Vegas group and the groups we’ll see over the following couple of seasons. Let’s check out the picks he revamped the primary three rounds of the 2018, 2019, and 2020 drafts:




We have already mentioned a few of these choices. Ferrell, the highest-drafted participant of the Gruden period at No. 4 general, was seen as a major overdraft on the time and hasn’t appeared like an influence participant at any level of his profession. The previous 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 following participant chosen in that first spherical was linebacker Devin White, who has turn out to be one of many league’s finest gamers at his place for the Bucs.

The one first-rounder we have not mentioned is Ruggs, who has flashed vital potential whereas struggling to command a major goal share. The hope is of course that he takes a step ahead in his second season, during 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 primary 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 primary wideout off the board in a redraft right this moment.

It does not get a lot better after the primary spherical. Miller has been a stable sort out, however Parker was unhealthy as a rookie and hasn’t been trusted as greater than a swing sort out since. Corridor and Key are now not on the roster. Neither is Bowden, who was moved to a “Joker” position as a hybrid working again/broad receiver after being drafted. He was traded earlier than ever taking part in 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 now not on their roster; of the opposite 39 gamers drafted, only one has been minimize 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 one gamers the Raiders would take once more at their identical spots would in all probability be Miller, Mullen and Edwards. That is a catastrophe for a group that had six first-round picks over this span.

It is too early to say something concerning the 2021 class, however as was the case with Ferrell and Jacobs, the Raiders used a first-round choose on offensive sort out Alex Leatherwood when most public assets pegged him as a midround choice. Leatherwood struggled sufficient at proper sort out for the Raiders to maneuver him to protect in the course of the Week 5 loss to the Bears. Groups typically take prospects a lot increased than public notion and show to be proper, because the Cowboys did with middle Travis Frederick in 2013. It is too early to make any proclamations about Leatherwood, but when he does not pan out, the Raiders can have repeatedly gone towards the grain and been incorrect about it each time.

One of the best choose Gruden made throughout his time in cost was seemingly somebody taken outdoors the highest 100: edge rusher Maxx Crosby, a 2019 fourth-round choose. The Japanese Michigan product racked up 10 sacks as a rookie, and whereas he has solely two sacks in 5 video games to start out 2021, he has been a constant disruptor and has 13 quarterback hits this season. Renfrow, taken a spherical later, has confirmed to be a worthwhile slot receiver. These 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 seems to be again at his two years taking part in beneath Jon Gruden.

Naturally, it is tough to parse the accountability for these choices between Gruden and Mayock, whose major work over the prior decade had been as a draft analyst for NFL Community earlier than becoming a member of the Raiders in 2019. Given how poorly the highest picks have carried out and the way lengthy Gruden had left on his contract, it is fully doable that Mayock would have been the autumn man for a disappointing 2021 season. Now, that is now not the case.

The simple reply is to say that they each deserve a number of the blame, as a result of it is unimaginable to know why the choices are failing. Are the Raiders struggling to carry by means of younger expertise as a result of they’re choosing the incorrect gamers? Or are they choosing helpful gamers and struggling to develop them into viable starters? There’s one motive to assume that the latter could be the larger drawback with Vegas …

Gruden in free company

… That motive? That virtually each vital free agent who got here to play for the Raiders appeared a lot worse in silver and black than they’d of their prior cease. Free company is not one of the best ways to construct a roster, however it’s arduous to consider a group that has gotten much less out of its vital signings than the Raiders over the previous a number of seasons. This is each free agent, with a mean annual wage of $5 million or extra, the Raiders added over the Gruden period, and what occurred subsequent:


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

  • LB Tahir Whitehead (three years, $19 million): misplaced beginning position in Yr 2, minimize

  • CB Rashaan Melvin (one yr, $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, minimize

  • S LaMarcus Joyner (4 years, $42 million): moved to CB, benched in Yr 2, minimize


  • 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 yr, $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 nearly completely as receiving again, averaging 2.4 yards per carry

That is a brutal record, and it would even undersell how dramatically these gamers dropped off. Whitehead, Nelson and Littleton went from being glorious of 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 person however itself responsible with somebody corresponding to Joyner. The 2014 second-rounder had bounced across 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.

Then again, the very best transfer the group made in the course of the Gruden period was a a lot much less notable free-agent signing. After Darren Waller handled substance abuse and moved to tight finish, the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s follow squad in 2018. He emerged as probably the most thrilling tight ends in all of soccer in 2019. They rapidly moved to signal him to a four-year, $29.8 million deal that October. At that price ticket, he is among the league’s most beneficial non-quarterbacks on a veteran deal.

Owing to the lacking draft picks and the disappointing top-100 choices, the Raiders have wanted to be energetic 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 pleased with gamers corresponding to Casey Hayward Jr., Solomon Thomas and Ok.J. Wright, and their contracts are affordable, however they’re all free brokers after the season.

What’s left on the roster

The Raiders have one of many league’s least spectacular cores. A coach or a common supervisor trying to construct the group can be taking a look at Miller and Crosby as the one 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, corresponding to 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. Each will probably be searching for new offers after the season. So will Jacobs and Renfrow, who’re helpful, albeit at positions during which it is typically straightforward to seek out helpful gamers. The Raiders merely aren’t in the identical universe by way of core expertise as the opposite groups within the AFC West.

They’ve been in a position to strategy league-average play by staying environment friendly and efficient on offense. Gruden’s finest asset as a coach was getting probably the most out of his offensive expertise, particularly within the passing sport. Carr’s finest seasons got here in 2019 and 2020. Waller went from being a practice-squad participant to a famous person. Each group handed on Renfrow a number of instances. Receiver Nelson Agholor was primarily a meme earlier than producing a profession season with the Raiders in 2020.

These guys aren’t going to abruptly flip into afterthoughts with out Gruden round, and the protection has been a lot better in 2021 than it was throughout the primary three years of his regime, however the last sport of his tenure was an instance of how this group 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 have been buried with subpar subject 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 yr in a row during which it has loved a three-game successful streak in some unspecified time in the future in the course of the season, however after the previous two-plus weeks, it seems like one other lifetime.

What’s subsequent for the Raiders

ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index provides the Raiders a 31.7% probability to make the playoffs. Making it to the postseason would in all probability encourage Davis to stay with the mix of Mayock and Bisaccia into 2022. In the event that they fall brief, they’d presumably look to rent one other coach, though Mayock’s future in that state of affairs can be unclear. Former head coaches corresponding to Gus Bradley, Tom Cable and Rod Marinelli are additionally on workers, so it is doable the Raiders may resolve to advertise one in every of their different assistants into the top position, because the Browns did once they named Freddie Kitchens head coach forward of interim coach Gregg Williams earlier than the 2019 season.

I am unsure this will probably be a very interesting job. Vegas will probably be an thrilling vacation spot without spending a dime brokers, however the expertise hole between the Raiders and the remainder of the division is clear. 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.

On the identical time, contemplate what occurred earlier than Gruden arrived. Former common supervisor McKenzie took over a group that was in horrific salary-cap form and lacking draft picks after years of disastrous choices by Al Davis and months of poor selections from former coach Hue Jackson. McKenzie’s Raiders ate almost $77 million in lifeless cash over 2012 and 2013 and started to work their approach 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 efficiency in one-score video games, however for a group that hadn’t been to the playoffs or posted a successful document since 2002, 12-4 is 12-4.

A yr later, Davis acquired distracted by shiny issues and fired coach Jack Del Rio after a disappointing season to provide Gruden full management of soccer operations (McKenzie was let go in December 2018). That instance goes to be behind anybody’s thoughts in the event that they get approached by the group. The following man in all probability 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 precisely the methods we might have anticipated based mostly on his time in Tampa Bay. He did a stable job of working the offense and acquired nearly all the things else incorrect. Nearly each one in every of his vital personnel choices 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 stories of offensive emails he wrote over a 10-year interval.

Organizations ought to be taught from the tenures of Gruden and Jacksonville’s City Meyer, the opposite coach who was within the highlight earlier than Gruden resigned. Each would qualify as offensive minds with success of their previous. They have been every charismatic on tv and able to convincing possession that they have been single-handedly able to turning round their fallen franchises. They have been every given management of soccer operations even if Meyer has by no means been concerned with professional personnel and Gruden’s observe document as soccer czar in Tampa, Florida, was spotty at finest.

When you’re hiring a coach, giving him full management of soccer operations and resting all the group on his shoulders, you higher ensure he is as much as the duty. Even earlier than the revelations of the previous few days, it was clear that Gruden was not.

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