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Former Raiders coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden discussed the NFL draft in a Wednesday conference call, and lavished praise on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
In the only Raiders specific question of the interview, Gruden was asked about a quarterback that may intrigue offensive coordinator Greg Olson and fit his system best. Gruden has some insight in the matter. Olson was Gruden's offensive coordinator in 2008, his last season as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach.
Gruden’s response: “In regards to the Raiders, I think Greg Olson is like a lot of NFL coaches today; you're looking for a quarterback that can run any play that you dream up. That's the beauty of Russell Wilson. He can run read options, speed options. He can run a west coast offense. He can run any play you dream up. You're seeing more and more of the dual threats becoming a force in the NFL with (Colin) Kaepernick, obviously Cam Newton. You're seeing quarterbacks being coveted that can run it, throw it, run an up-tempo style.
“(Blake) Bortles from Central Florida. Bortles did a lot of options, drop-back stuff in the pro-style system. I can see Olson liking Johnny Manziel. Greg Olson is a guy with tremendous imagination. I can see him liking a lot of these quarterbacks.”
It was clear that, if Gruden had a pick in this draft, he'd take Manziel.
“I don't have any concerns. I'm a Manziel -- I don't know what the word I should use is -- advocate, proponent. I want Manziel. I realize he's under six feet tall. Maybe he can't see over the line. We blew that theory in the water last year with (Russell) Wilson and (Drew) Brees.
“I know he can learn. I spent two days with him, and I know he wants to learn. He had four different offensive coordinators at Texas A&M. He had two different head coaches. It didn't matter. He adapted and did extremely well. This is the first Heisman Trophy winner as a freshman. In two years at Texas A&M, he had the most productive back-to-back seasons in SEC history. I don't know what you want him to do. He threw for eight thousand, ran for two thousand, he has 93 touchdowns. All I know is, I want Manziel.”
Gruden was asked about Manziel again later on, specifically about his development despite having two years college-football eligibility remaining.
“Well, he's developed from the standpoint of being on the field making quick decisions in the pocket, at the line of scrimmage, 95 to 98 snaps a game. He has no experience coming out of the huddle really, handling the pass protections, doing some of the things that you've seen some of the conventional pro quarterbacks do. It's going to be a huge adjustment for him. It might not happen for him by opening day.
“But I'm convinced that he will learn it. He will excel at whatever you ask him to do. But, remember, he did redshirt at Texas A&M. Maybe he needs a redshirt year in pro football. I'm not going to say that's going to happen or that's a certainty. But it will be an adjustment for Manziel making the adjustment as a young player at this position at the next level. But I'm sure he can do it.”