The Raiders need their ‘Steve Kerr’

With time fleeting in Oakland, the silver and black should bring back a former star

Derek Papa
December 31, 2017 - 10:42 am

After back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1992, the Golden State Warriors decided to make a change at head coach in 2014. They plucked Steve Kerr out of the booth and the rest is history.

It seems like a great decision now but at the time, the move was a little controversial.

Kerr had never coached before and was calling games for TNT. The Warriors had success with Mark Jackson as head coach but after the 2013 season with a first-round upset over the Denver Nuggets, suddenly, there were expectations.

While the Warriors made the playoffs the following season, they were knocked out in the first round to their rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, in a seven-game series — and that was just not good enough.

This 2017 Oakland Raiders had huge expectations coming off a 12-4 record and their first playoff trip n 14 years. After the news of the move to Las Vegas and with only a limited time remaining in Oakland, these fans deserve better than what they got this season.


That is a disservice to what Del Rio has accomplished in Oakland. While Jackson never coached prior to his job, Del Rio had 20 years of NFL experience.

He coached Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens linebackers in 2000 on arguably the greatest defense of all-time. He brought the Jaguars back to respectability and the playoffs in the mid-2000s.

Del Rio did the same for the Raiders up until this season. There is no doubt that there is dysfunction in the Raiders locker room. It’s not all Del Rio’s fault but he contributed to how the season turned out. This team has way too much talent to perform the way they did.

So maybe Del Rio is not the right guy for this team.

While it’s not fair to compare Del Rio to Jackson, it is fair to say the Raiders need their “Steve Kerr.” And that guy is Jon Gruden.

I know everyone just rolled their eyes, groaned and said, “we've heard this before.” Since Gruden was traded to Tampa in 2002, the Raiders have tried to find the next great coach to fill his shoes.

Since he entered the Monday Night Football booth in 2009, people have wondered if he’ll return to coaching. We all wanted him back multiple times in the past only to see him stay in the booth. So after nine seasons of calling games, why would he coach now?

Because he’s not a TV guy. No matter how good Gruden is on the broadcast this is not where he should be, and he knows that.

Everyone might say, “The game has passed him by.” Really? How? He’s only been evaluating the entire league for the past nine years, studying every player and seeing how offenses have evolved. Not to mention, he studies the future of the league by talking to and evaluating every college QB in the draft. He is not Dick Vermeil or Joe Gibbs. Gruden has just been studying the last nine years, which I would say makes him more prepared than most coaches.

People also bring up his lack of success after winning the Super Bowl.

Here’s his résumé: 45-51 record, two playoff appearances in six seasons and no playoff wins. While I’ll admit that isn’t great , there is no question Gruden makes your football team compete.

The Warriors decided to go for a blonde haired, blue eyed, TV analyst as their head coach, why shouldn’t the Raiders do the same?

Rumors of Gruden returning to the Raiders have been thrown around since he entered the booth. But that’s only because the truth is he wants to come back. While his relationship with Al Davis wasn’t great (but let’s be honest, who did have an amazing relationship with Al?), Gruden never wanted to leave the Raiders, he just had to.

The elder Davis gave him no choice after he did not want to give him a new contract. Gruden was going to coach Notre Dame after 2001 but they wanted him to leave during the season, something he wasn’t going to do.

So when Tampa offered Davis two first-round picks and Gruden agreed, the demise of the Raiders began. It only stung even worse when Gruden kicked the Raiders ass in the Super Bowl with the Bucs that following year. Eight coaches later, the Raiders are still looking for their Jon Gruden.

So why am I bringing this up? I mean Jack Del Rio signed a 4-year contract extension in February. It’s only one bad season right?

In a year where we saw the Raiders offense go from the seventh in scoring offense to 23rd, Derek Carr not live up to his $125-million dollar contract and waste what little time they have left in Oakland on a losing season — it’s just not good enough.

The identity of this football team is lost and I’m not sure Del Rio even knows what he wants it to be. I’m pretty sure the Raiders are a pass-first team with an explosive aerial attack.

That’s not the offense we saw this season with Todd Downing. It’s time this team lived up to its potential.

I wouldn’t bring this up if the rumors didn’t come back. While we have been let down before, this year seems different.

Multiple reports have come out that Gruden does want to return to coaching and has begun assembling a potential coaching staff. We heard he wants to come back and coach his former teams the Bucs or the Raiders. While it seemed more likely that he would return to Tampa since he lives there, the Bucs just announced that Dirk Koetter will be returning in 2018.

And this was after Rich Gannon joined "The Greg Papa Show" with Bonta Hill and said the following when asked about a potential return for Gruden:

“I’ve had conversations with him," Gannon said. "I think he thinks of himself as a football coach. He works like a football coach.”

“If you ask what he’s done over the last four or five years, I don’t think anyone’s worked harder. It’s almost like the “Rocky” movie where he went and trained in Russia. I think Jon has been training like that for five years. I think he has done an unbelievable job staying abreast of what’s going on in the league, looking at personnel.”

“He has spent a lot of time with college coaches and learning about different defenses and different things to do offensively in terms of the spread game. He just gathers all the information and I think when he comes back, he’s going to come back with a vengeance.”

“I think it’s getting close. That’s my personal opinion. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he comes back in the next month and we hear a press conference introducing Jon Gruden as the next head coach of a team and my sense is it could be on the West Coast or it could be somewhere down south — and I’ll just leave it at that.”

Well since Tampa already has their coach, that would seeming only leave one team as an option.

The Raiders need Gruden now more than ever. They need a guy who can yell at Carr when he makes a bad pass. They need a guy who will tell Amari Cooper he needs to toughen up. They need a guy who will tell Michael Crabtree, ‘Get back in the huddle and shut up, don’t jeopardize the team.’ They need a guy to tell Marshawn Lynch, ‘You are not bigger than the group.’

Gruden has handled the likes of Warren Sapp, Keyshawn Johnson and Aqib Talib. He’ll figure out quickly who should be on this team and who should be gone.

He would be great a great teacher for Derek Carr. Like Bill Romanowski said about Carr, “He needs a coach, not a friend.”

There is no better motivator than Gruden, and he would give Carr everything he needed in a coach to make him live up to his contract.

Something Gruden and Carr share in common is that they are both students of the game by learning it from family members. Gruden has always been a fan of the gun slinging QBs like when he was with Brett Favre in Green Bay. While Gruden had success with quarterbacks like Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia, he never had a big-armed gunslinger. He may find the closest thing in Carr.

Do the Raiders even want him back? Mark Davis has tried to get Jon to come back in years past. Jon even returned to light Al Davis torch. I believe Mark would be in favor of Jon coaching this team. As for Reggie McKenzie, it’s not that McKenzie wouldn’t want him but whether Gruden would want to work with him.

This move may mean the end of McKenzie’s time with the team as well. Gruden would probably want a general manager he is familiar with or maybe he’d even install himself as head of football operations. Part of me would believe he’d like to compete in the player personnel department against his former player and the current San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch.

Not only would Jon Gruden’s return to the Raiders be good for the team, but it would be also good for the Bay Area.

By now we can tell there has been a shift in power as the 49ers are now the apple of every media member’s eye for Bay Area football.

I’ll admit the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo paired with the Raiders move to Vegas and disappointing season has rightfully caused this.

So while many voices in the media want to demand that all Raider fans forget about their team and force them out of the Bay, that’s too bad. The Raiders will remain in the Bay Area for hopefully two more seasons.

Raider fans deserve to see this team have success while they are here. So while the Niners have Jimmy G., the return of Johnny G. may actually realign the power structure in the Bay Area football landscape.

So why not go after Jon Gruden?

With possibly only two seasons left in Oakland, does this franchise care to do anything it can to see this team win in Oakland?

Or have they just moved on to Vegas and the product on the field for the Oakland Raiders doesn’t matter?

Only time will tell in the offseason. I just know it’s time for a change and it’s time this team lived up to its potential. So in the words of Jon Gruden, “Maybe I’m out of my mind & out of my skull but it’s time for the Raiders to get their ‘Steve Kerr.’”

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