You would be hard pressed to find a worse location for the former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach to make his comeback.
Surely Gruden has fond memories of his four years in Oakland. And he certainly has the fans’ support, but despite the death of Al Davis, the Raiders are still among the worst run teams in the NFL, and there are few teams with a bleaker future.
Oakland has a serious lack of elite young talent, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. The team wasted a first-round pick on Rolando McClain in 2010, and haven’t had a first-round selection since. They traded the 2011 pick to the New England Patriots for Richard Seymour, and they traded their 2012 first-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Carson Palmer. They’ll finally have a first rounder in 2013, but they’ll be without a second-round (Palmer) and fifth-round selection (traded for Aaron Curry).
The team has invested a first round pick, second round pick and third round pick in the last two years for Palmer and second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The problem with that is, Gruden’s probably going to want to bring in his own quarterback to groom.
Gruden’s also likely going to demand player-personnel control. So not only did the team waste a contract on current head coach Dennis Allen (who is likely not having a pleasant time dealing with all these rumors), but also new general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Do you really want Gruden in charge of everyday moves anyway? Gruden did a nice job developing his players during his first stint in Oakland, but he wasn’t in charge of acquiring that talent. Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII with Tampa Bay against those Raiders, but that was with a Buccaneers team that Tony Dungy had built. When he did receive some of that player personnel control in Tampa, his team tanked and he got fired.
The Buccaneers essentially had seven years of terrible drafts under Gruden. Gruden’s highest picks by year were Marquise Walker, Dewayne White, Michael Clayton, Cadillac Williams, Davin Joseph, Gaines Adams and Aqib Talib. Among the 61 players drafted under Gruden, only Joseph has ever been named to a Pro Bowl.
Gruden’s best scenario would be to go back to college. If he doesn’t take that opportunity, he should go to a team like the Eagles — where he can draft and groom a quarterback — a team like the Lions — where he already has a stud QB — or even a team like the Chiefs — where he will be able to draft a quarterback.
Gruden’s best offer was the one coming from Tennessee, where he could have prepared Tyler Bray for the NFL, received part ownership of the Browns and likely received the first offer from Cleveland if Pat Shurmur falters. In Oakland, fans will be able to bring back their Chucky dolls, but it’s still a team without elite talent, in a terrible stadium and with no hope for the immediately future.
Sure, the Raiders have some talented young players, but guys like Stefan Wisniewski, Lamarr Houston and Tyvon Branch won’t be able to turn the franchise around. And talented skill position players like Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey are plagued with inconsistency either through injuries or performance.
Gruden should let Allen and McKenzie clean up the mess that Al Davis and company created, and Al’s son and new owner, Mark Davis, should let those guys do their job in peace. Gruden’s got a cushy gig at Monday Night Football anyway, why would he want to give that up?