Jon Gruden Hasn't Changed; Players Have

Gruden still knows the game, but his success as Raiders coach could hinge on his ability to connect with players

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
July 27, 2018 - 9:01 am

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Jon Gruden has worked in and around the NFL for more than 25 years, but he hasn't coached since 2008. That will change Monday, Sept. 10, when the Raiders host the Rams on Monday Night Football.

Raiders fans – and executives – will be curious to see how Gruden handles being back in the spotlight.

“Mark Davis really wanted Gruden back – and Gruden never wanted to go,” former All-Pro offensive lineman and current Raiders broadcaster Lincoln Kennedy told Zach Gelb, who was filling in as host of After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “When he heard the rumblings that Gruden wanted to get back into coaching, Mark Davis made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Indeed, 10 years and $100 million ain’t bad. Gruden just needs to prove he’s worth it.

“There is going to be that hesitancy to see if he can still do it,” Kennedy said. “It’s not so much the game has changed. The game has not changed. It’s still football. You line up, 11 men on each side, and you play. But the player has changed. It'll be interesting to see if Gruden is able to keep up with the type of player and the way the current CBA is. I’ve been out to a couple of practices, and Gruden has the exact same mannerisms that he had when I played for him, and so he has not changed his coaching style. It’s just the type of player he’s coaching has changed.”

Kennedy, 47, played for the Raiders from 1996 to 2003 – and for Gruden from 1998 to 2001.

“I enjoyed him a lot,” Kennedy said. “I had my most success as a player playing for him. I went to Pro Bowls and was All-Pro because his system was incredibly simple. It wasn’t a lot of jargon, it wasn’t a lot of verbiage – it just made it easy for you to go out there and execute. More importantly, we didn’t have to run a lot of plays. He gave Rich Gannon options. We had a good running game, we had a balanced passing attack, we were offensively efficient – the offense, we were moving. We had a high-efficiency rushing game. One year we led the league in rushing and went to the AFC Championship Game. One year after he left, we were the No. 1 offense and we saw him in the Super Bowl. His system was very easy to manipulate and have fun with.”

Defensively, the Raiders hope to sign Khalil Mack to a long-term deal. Mack is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

“It’ll get done. It’s just a matter of when and the details of it,” Kennedy said. “Khalil Mack deserves to be paid as a superstar. He’s definitely earned Von Miller-type of money. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Raiders juggle it because they just gave a big chunk of change to Derek Carr to lock him up for years. The same thing is going to happen with Khalil Mack, there’s no doubt about it. It’ll come with time.”