The Oakland Raiders blew up the process by firing Jack Del Rio and hiring Jon Gruden. You don’t hire Gruden from the booth, assemble of group of experienced and expensive assistants and pay Del Rio off to win a Division title. The expectations for Gruden and company is a Super Bowl ASAP.
Of course, that means the Raiders will need to fill their roster with Super Bowl level talent. They have glaring needs for elite talent and depth across the roster. They could wait for some draft picks from the previous regime to develop but that was the process that failed them in 2017.
The Raiders need to get top level talent in the draft, obviously, but they need to do that in free agency as well. Gruden has been out of coaching for a while so he doesn’t have a pipeline of active players ready to go. He’s got to get a new generation of players to buy into his legends of the 2000s.
Del Rio needed to attract free agents too. He did to some extent. They found budget guys like Perry Riley Jr., Reggie Nelson, David Amerson, Michael Crabtree, Marshawn Lynch and Navarro Bowman. They got top guys like Keleci Osemele and Rodney Hudson. They capitalized on second tier free agents like Sean Smith, Dan Williams, Donald Penn and Bruce Irvin.
Now, Gruden has got to take it a step further. In the past, general manager Reggie McKenzie has been hesitant to pay older free agents or handover big contracts. That will have to change in the Gruden era. They will need take some short cuts and that means signing the top free agents.
We’re seeing it in Jacksonville. The Jaguars spent dollars on elite free agents. They also drafted well and developed those players. Now, they’ve got a deep roster with veterans and young players. Oakland needs to follow a similar format.
On the other hand, we’ve seen teams like Giants sign free agents and take steps backwards. That proves the Raiders need a balance of draft picks and free agents to improve their depth.
When Reggie McKenzie took over this organization, he tore down the roster by releasing underperforming players. He hired Dennis Allen to lead the rebuild.
A few years later, McKenzie started reconstruction. He hired an experienced coach like Del Rio. He started attracting under the radar free agents that offered the most return on their investment. He found veterans willing to buy-in and prove themselves.
Now, the Raiders will enter the re-tool part of the process. They have cornerstone players like Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Amari Cooper to build around. They have veterans who have proved themselves like Osemele, Irvin, Hudson and others. Gruden will need to take this nucleus and mold into a true contender.
Gruden is tasked with getting this team an identity. He’s got some talent that he needs to get to buy into his vision. However, he’s going to need to get some more talent around them that fits his image. This is how the team takes the next step.
It means getting rid of players who don’t fit the character or play style that Gruden needs. Those who don’t buy in or fit in will need to be replaced.
That means bringing in talent that elevates the quality of the roster and is willing to fill specific needs. They need elite talented players willing to buy into Gruden’s image of the Raiders. Oakland will need to spend on elite players that compliment the nucleus they already have and will fit Gruden’s identity.
The Raiders can’t waste anymore time waiting for players to develop. They can’t keep players on scholarship. They can’t squeeze round pegs into Gruden’s image.
Hiring Gruden didn’t just speed up the process. Combine that with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in two years and the entire process is blown up.
Oakland is taking a huge gamble on Gruden. They’re taking a huge gamble moving to Las Vegas. Oakland needs a Super Bowl ASAP.
The Jaguars and Titans both won a playoff game before the Silver and Black. If that is not an indicator that the team needs to speed up the process, what is?
The Raiders can’t stop gambling now. They got to gamble by spending money on specific, elite free agents. Sorry McKenzie, but your entire process is blown up. Oakland can’t wait for you draft picks to develop. You gotta open up that checkbook and take some shortcuts to help Gruden build his identity.