Jon Gruden and Derek Carr

USA Today

Jon Gruden's Plan

Not even sure there is a plan.

September 13, 2018 - 12:06 pm

It’s Thursday of Week 2. We’re 72 hours removed from Oakland losing by 20 at home in Jon Gruden’s return, so let’s go check in on the Raiders to see how things are going. Answer: not good. Not good at all.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Gruden described life at the facility: “Short week, no sleep and a wild skunk running around in our locker room. It’s been a tough week. It’s a smell I can’t get out of my face.”

What stinks worse: the skunk or the offensive game plan for the Rams? Hey-OOOOOOOO.

I’m not going to get into the symbolism too much, but having a skunk running around your locker room isn’t a great look on any level. And is prime fodder for lame “something stinks around the Raiders” jokes. 

But seriously, folks. Something does stink around the Raiders and it’s not the skunk. Because Amari Cooper, the receiver who Gruden declared would be a “centerpiece” of the offense had one catch for 9 yards against the Rams. He qualified about as much as a centerpiece in the opener than I did. 

So what happened? Well, Gruden said that’s pretty simple: "You look at the film, we had him wide open deep. We didn't go there. He was open a couple of times, and for whatever reason we didn't go that route.”

There is no cliché that gets overused more than “throwing someone under the bus,” but that was one of the all-time great bus shoves. Jon Gruden was kicking it with his arm around Carr’s shoulders, like they were bus, chopping it and as soon as he saw the bus, he pushed Car as hard as he could right in front of it. And then instructed the driver to back over a few times and drag him a mile or two. 

We’re one game into Gruden’s time and Gruden is already blaming his quarterback.  Publicly. The same quarterback that he says was one of the biggest reasons he took that gig. And just know this…. If there’s one thing that you know in a Jon Gruden offense, the plays are never wrong. If they didn’t work, it’s on the players, not the coach. 

That’s not to say that Gruden isn’t right. There may have been plays where Cooper was open and the smarter play was to go to him instead of Jared Cook on an underneath route, but there are ways to say that without pointing the finger at your quarterback. And he chose not to go that route. Instead, he took an obvious run at his quarterback. And not to state the obvious, but there’s no way Derek Car appreciates getting called out like that publicly by his coach. Just as there’s no chance Chucky gives a damn how Car feels. 

And If “throwing someone under the bus” is a tired cliché, so is the idea that Jon Gruden is tough on quarterbacks. And that tough love is what makes them better. Never mind that it doesn’t always do that, why would you bother creating an unnecessary controversy this early in the season? Why compound a 20 point loss with an unnecessary story? Just say we didn’t execute the way we would’ve liked and move on. Why? Then again, why trade Khalil Mack and butcher the explanations about it? Because that’s Chucky doing what Chucky does.  

The Raiders haven’t even played a road game yet and they’ve already got a skunk in the locker room and the head coach pointing fingers at his Pro Bowl quarterback. 

But there’s good news, because the Raiders might have solved their downfield woes. They just signed Martavis Bryant to a one-year contract and Gruden is fired up about the new guy: “He's a guy that's proven. He can go up and get the deep ball in contested situations. He can run away from you. He can make you miss. He can make big plays down the field, that's obvious.”

Damn, that sounds like a great acquisition and exciting when you can get a talent like that after the regular season started. So what’s Bryant’s backstory? Where’d they find him?

Uh, well, he was on their roster in camp and then they cut him because he underperformed. 

This was Jon Gruden on Bryant a week and a half ago: “We expected more from him. He did not make the team because Keon Hatcher came on. Some other players outperformed him.”

Ah, whatever. He probably misspoke about Bryant. That happens. Let’s check this quote from before the start of the season: “We tried to keep the five or six best receivers and that’s what we did.”

And then there was the time where Gruden was tired of Bryant’s absences and referred to him as the “white tiger” because you don’t see him very often.

Oh, and one other: “Keon out performed him and for that reason we’re keeping Keon Hatcher.”

So Bryant was cut and Keon Hatcher was kept after a big performance in the final preseason game. Gruden declared that “I probably would’ve got thrown out of the airplane if we did not keep Keon after that game.”

Fast forward 10 days and guess who’s back? Martavis Bryant. And guess who was cut to make space for him? Keon Hatcher. And guess who’s fired up about Martavis Bryant and his ability? The same guy who said he was disappointing, rarely seen, and outplayed by Keon Hatcher. 

Unless there are two Martavis Bryant’s and two Keon Hatchers, things sure do change fast in Oakland. 

Trading your Hall of Fame defensive stud. Losing by 20 in the season opener. Taking a run at your quarterback. Trading for Martavis Bryant. Cutting Martavis Bryant. Keeping Keon Hatcher. Cutting Keon Hatcher. Signing Martavis Bryant. 

Things are not exactly going to according to plan. In fact, I’m not even sure there is a plan. But if Chuck has one, I’d love to hear it. Because I sure as hell don’t see it.