ALAMEDA, Calif. — Monday, Monday. A song from the 1980s A day on which Jon Gruden would give us his take from the ESPN booth. He analyzed; he chuckled. He had the best of all possible worlds.
Now Gruden has returned to coaching, coming back to the Oakland Raiders. Now, at this Monday, there are no chuckles. Now there are only losses and heartache.
“I really haven’t thought about much,” was his comment, when asked about giving up a home game so the Raiders on Sunday could play in London. “Obviously I’m a little depressed today.”
It’s hard to think of Gruden as depressed. He was always so upbeat, so buoyant, so eager to make everyone watching him or listening to him appreciate the nuances of football, to grasp what separates one player from another, one team from another.
But the Raiders, Jon Gruden’s Raiders, are 1-4, and have a game overseas against the Seattle Seahawks, who may be 2-3 but played well against the unbeaten Rams-or at least better than the Raiders did against the Chargers.
You can sympathize with Gruden, whose quarterback seems to be regressing and whose former best defensive player is on the Chicago Bears. Or you can shrug and point out no one forced Jon to leave his happy ESPN home. All this pain, this little depression, is self-inflicted.
Gruden understands where he is, even if he doesn’t quite understand how he got there. Derek Carr throwing an interception on first-and-goal from the Chargers one? What, are you crazy?
The Raiders trailed, 20-3, at the time (They would lose, 26-10). The play wasn’t decisive. It was disheartening. It was what has happened to the Raiders, a mistake when they could not afford one.
When he was broadcasting, everything went right for Gruden. A slip-up, say calling the wrong first name, was correctable with an apology. But you can’t apologize when the decision is to throw on first-and-yard and the ball is picked off — and you have Marshawn Lynch willing and able and showing disdain for the call by tearing off his helmet.
You only can try to explain, which on this Monday is what Gruden did.
“I don’t want to see anybody get upset,” said Gruden, certainly including himself. “I want everybody to be happy. It won’t be the last pass I call on first and goal either. I think it’s best to throw down there.”
Uh, Jon, that Super Bowl, XLIX, when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a pass from the one, and it was intercepted by New England? Remember? Marshawn Lynch was ignored on that play too. Fortunately this wasn’t quite as important.
“I regret it was intercepted,” said a self-effacing Gruden. “Turns out to be a terrible call. But we were down 20-3. Melvin Ingram is their middle linebacker in a jam front, and I wanted to throw a play-action pass on the one-foot line. My opinion is it shouldn’t have been intercepted.”
OK. He still sounds like the ESPN analyst with that remark.
“We shouldn’t do that,” Gruden confirmed. “But we did. Lynch is frustrated. (Gruden) threw my visor and my headset. So I think we have a lot in common.”
Throwing equipment is permitted. Throwing away a chance to score is not. Coaches as players are imperfect. If you listen to a coaching headset during a game, there is anger and obscenities. The situation seems chaotic. And there’s no director back in the production truck offering advice.
Gruden was asked if five games into his return to coaching the job is taking a toll on him. The answer wasn’t necessarily the whole truth and nothing but. Nobody’s going to concede, “Hey, I shouldn’t have taken the job,” after only a few weeks.
“No, I just don’t like to lose,” was Gruden’s response. “I think we have work to do. There’s not enough time in the day to do it. I’m depressed. I’m tired. I want to win. I want to do better. We have to get back to work here.”
What they really to do in Jon Gruden’s first year back is have some success. It’s a tough business Jon. But you knew that, didn’t you?
–RB Jalen Richard ran the ball just once Sunday but he hauled in a team-high six catches for 53 yards.
–CB Daryl Worley missed the first four games due to suspension, but he made his presence felt in his return, finishing with eight tackles and one tackle for loss. “It’s great to have him back, and see where he is,” said head coach Jon Gruden. “He had a good week of practice. He did make some plays today, some physical plays. We’ve had a lot of moving parts on this football team through the first five weeks, in all three phases. … We think he’s a guy that potentially could stabilize us at (that) position.”
–LB Tahir Whitehead played every defensive snap Sunday and led the team with nine tackles.
–WR Martavis Bryant had 91 yards receiving against the Chargers, but couldn’t hit the century mark. It was the first game this season that the Raiders failed to have at least one receiver finish with 100 yards.
–OT Kolton Miller, the team’s first-round draft pick, has been a bright spot for the Raiders. “I think he’s playing great,” Gruden said. “He’s proven to be tough. He’s won for us in one-on-one pass protection. He’s been a great run blocker. He’s pulled. He’s a rookie, an underclassman out of UCLA. I’m proud of this guy. I love what he’s done.”
–Read Spander at ArtSpander.com