Raiders' Jon Gruden Says Darren Waller Is 'Best Player I Have Ever Coached'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 14, 2021

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
AP Photo/David Becker

There weren't many typical developments during the Las Vegas Raiders' 33-27 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday, including the winning team's tight end receiving 19 targets.

Head coach Jon Gruden said there was a perfectly valid reason for that number.

"He's the best player I have ever coached," Gruden told reporters when talking about Darren Waller.

"Dang, that's crazy he said that," Waller told reporters when informed of his coach's comments.

There's no doubt Waller was the best player on the field for extended stretches.

He was a bright spot for the Raiders offense as they struggled to establish much of a rhythm in the early going and then was Derek Carr's go-to option with the game on the line. None of Waller's 10 catches that went for 105 yards were bigger than his touchdown in the final four minutes that set up an unbelievable sequence the rest of the game.

It appeared as if Baltimore would win it when Justin Tucker kicked a 47-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining. Then Las Vegas responded with a 55-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson to force overtime.

It seemed as if the Raiders won in overtime when Carr found Bryan Edwards on a deep ball, but he was ruled down at the 1-yard line upon further review. The home team then moved back on a false start and turned it over on a Carr interception only to get a second chance when Lamar Jackson lost a fumble on the ensuing drive.

Carr capitalized on the second chance with a touchdown pass to Zay Jones to win it.

It was a memorable game, just like Gruden's comments about Waller were memorable in the aftermath.

Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998 through 2001 and then led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008 before returning to the sidelines with the Raiders prior to the 2018 campaign. He won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay and coached players such as Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and Simeon Rice.

That is quite the talented collection, but Gruden apparently believes Waller is the most talented of the group.