The Las Vegas Raiders are a difficult team to figure out.
Will they be playoff bound, or will they crash and burn again?
It appears to be one extreme or the other for the Raiders especially since Jon Gruden returned to be the head coach in 2018.
The hope and excitement fans felt when Gruden returned has been replaced with concern about the future direction of this franchise under his leadership.
Here are three reasons Raiders fans should be (and already are) concerned.
Gruden is a charismatic guy; that is evident whether he is broadcasting or coaching.
Sometimes his personality creates unnecessary and unwanted distractions for the team.
Last season when the Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead, it was reportedly Gruden who orchestrated the team busses to take victory laps around the stadium.
Given that the Chiefs were the reigning Super Bowl champions and the Raiders have not achieved that feat in decades, this was not a good decision.
Encouraging and praising the team after a huge win is important but not while throwing shade at the opponent who is a divisional rival that the Raiders had to play again.
Those victory laps around Arrowhead really helped the Raiders.
— Hurry up Chiefs Football. (@BMKCROYSCHIEFS) December 27, 2020
Then there was the whole mask wearing thing.
Nobody really enjoys wearing a mask, but it was a rule during the 2020 season so that the NFL could complete the season.
Gruden had issues with it and paid fines for not complying as did the Raiders organization who did not comply either.
The #Raiders’ running total of known COVID-related fines is now at $565,000:
$250K for club – sideline mask violation
$165K for players not wearing masks at fundraiser
$100K for Jon Gruden – sideline mask violation
$50K for unauthorized locker room visitor
It’s only Week 4.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 5, 2020
These are just two examples when Gruden did not think through the long-term implications of his actions.
As a result, the team was riddled with distractions.
2. Roster Management
Unless Gruden brings a Lombardi Trophy to Las Vegas, he will never live down the 2018 decision to trade 2014 first-round pick Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears during the preseason.
Mack was a holdout from training camp so trading him was Gruden’s solution to the problem.
That is not his only roster move that is a head-scratcher, but it is the most noteworthy.
2018: The #Raiders trade Khalil Mack nine days before the season opener.
2019: The #Raiders initiate divorce proceedings with Antonio Brown three days before the season opener.
Rarely see these things with a team's best player, much less two years in a row.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 7, 2019
He trades away established players for draft picks that never materialize.
Fans hoped that GM Mike Mayock‘s arrival in Oakland in 2019 would help in this area, but thus far it has not paid dividends.
The ultimate measure of a head coach’s success is his record.
Gruden’s win-loss record is not good.
From 2018-2020, his teams have 19 wins and 29 losses.
There have been no playoff appearances.
What seems to happen to his teams is that they start out playing well and lose steam midseason which leads a poor finish.
Fixing that disturbing pattern will help his record, legacy, and the success of the Raiders in 2021.
With all of the issues related to Gruden’s leadership, many wonder how long he will keep his job.
Because there are odds for everything, oddsmakers have already weighed in on this.
Who will be the first head coach fired in the NFL next season? (BetOnline)
Mike McCarthy +750
Vic Fangio +800
Matt Nagy +850
Jon Gruden +1000
Mike Zimmer +1100
Zac Taylor +1200
Kliff Kingsbury +1200
David Culley +1600
Matt Rhule +1600
Mike Vrabel +1600
Matt LaFleur +2000 pic.twitter.com/DA7TT5H7vY
— On Top of the Line Sports OTLSPORTS.COM (@OTLSPORTS) June 15, 2021
His challenge in 2021 is to improve the Raiders defense which was been a huge disappointment for years.
Since Jon Gruden became head coach in 2018, the Raiders’ defense ranks:
32nd in PPG
32nd in EPA
32nd in Efficiency
Stop blaming Derek Carr! pic.twitter.com/uL2QcEDYSp
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 15, 2021
If he is not able to turn things around and have a winning record, 2021 could be his final season as the Raiders head coach.