Jon Gruden has been with ESPN far longer than he was in Oakland. He was head coach in silver and black for four seasons, and with the powerful cable network nearly double that.
He was Buccaneers head coach for a while too, but…once a Raider, always a Raider.
Gruden has kept up with all things Raiders through the bad times and, for the first time in a long while, some good ones.
The Raiders are fresh off a 7-9 season, with many believe their 13-year playoff drought ends this winter.
Gruden believes he pinpointed the turning point. And, in no surprise given Gruden’s coaching history, it pivots around a quarterback. It occurred with general manager Reggie McKenzie got a quality quarterback at No. 36 overall in the 2014 draft.
That draft pick turned things around and brought the Raiders back to relevance in minds of the league and its players. It’s helped bring talent around that passer, making the Raiders a more competitive bunch.
“I think Reggie's done a really good job. Obviously, the Derek Carr selection at the top of the second round is his signature acquisition,” Gruden said Thursday in a conference call. “When you have a quarterback, as you know, your football program or city becomes a desirable destination for free agents. People want to go where they have a quality quarterback because they know they have a chance to win."
That has played out over the past few seasons, as the Raiders have been able sign the likes of cornerback Sean Smith, edge rusher Bruce Irvin, receiver Michael Crabtree, nose tackle Dan Williams, safety Reggie Nelson and offensive linemen Rodeny Hudson and Kelechi Osemele in free agency.
“Derek Carr and his performance over the last couple years has made the Raiders once again a destination for free agents,” Gruden said. “I can't tell you how happy I am to see that as an ex-Oakland Raider.”