Year 4 of Jon Gruden’s second tour through Raider nation should prove to be a pivotal one for the Super Bowl-winning head coach. Gruden has yet to get Las Vegas into the postseason since returning to the sidelines in 2018. Overall, the franchise hasn’t played a postseason game since 2016 under head coach Jack Del Rio.
The legend of Gruden as a great coach has become far closer to folklore than fact. A Gruden-coached team hasn’t appeared in the playoffs since 2007. Take out the decade he spent away from coaching, and we’re talking about five seasons of no playoff football. No one expects any team to win the Super Bowl every year, but most great coaches are at least getting their teams into the playoffs more often than not.
In 14 seasons of head coaching with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Raiders, Gruden’s teams have made the playoffs in just 5 of those years. His teams aren’t even making it to the postseason half the time. The Super Bowl came during the magical 2002 season in Tampa Bay, where Gruden had arguably the best defense in the NFL and a team was set up for him to come in and win right away. While Tony Dungy failed to get that early 2000s Bucs team over the hump, they were in the perfect position for Gruden to make a few tweaks on offense and take off from there.
Gruden and his staff sure can’t seem to develop a young QB for a coach that is supposed to be known for his work with quarterbacks. The first time around with the Raiders, Gruden won with Rich Gannon and then Brad Johnson in Tampa Bay. Both players were journeymen by the time they linked up with Gruden.
You’d think the guy known as the QB guru for ESPN for all those years would be able to draft and develop a young QB to set his team up for the next decade or longer. That hasn’t happened for Gruden, and it may never happen.
Many people just roll their eyes at this point whenever the word “great” is mentioned in the same sentence as Gruden. Like greatness, I hate to throw the word “overrated around” like it’s a nerf football. But in this instance, it seems to fit. If you’re not winning multiple Super Bowls, then at least have your team in the position to do so by making the playoffs most years.
Mark Davis isn’t nearly as involved on the football side as his late father was. Most coaches would be on the hot seat at this point, but Gruden seems to be running the franchise now that Al Davis is no longer around. Add that 10-year, $100 million contract of Gruden’s, and it’s easy to see who’s running things in Las Vegas.
If Gruden cares to save or re-establish his legacy, he’ll need to do so quickly. Starting with making the playoffs this season. Otherwise, Gruden is in danger of being remembered as the guy who came in and traded away an All-Pro future Hall of Fame linebacker in Khalil Mack, only to make an attempt at reacquiring Mack from the same team a few years later. I’m sure the Chicago Bears front office had a good laugh that day.
Moves like this are what I think of when I hear Gruden’s name. Unless he’s just happy to collect his hefty paychecks over the next few years, something needs to change in Las Vegas. Whatever it is, Gruden needs to figure it out soon or risk losing the fans that have hung around after the team left Oakland for the second time.