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How the Raiders Can Make a Fresh Start in the Wake of Jon Gruden's Resignation

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 14, 2021

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 10:  Head coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders reacts during a game against the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Bears defeated the Raiders 20-9.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The fallout from Jon Gruden's resignation as Raiders coach will linger for some time, but NFL games don't stop, and the Raiders have to play Sunday against the rival Denver Broncos.

From this moment forward, owner Mark Davis will have to make multiple decisions regarding the franchise's operations, but a fresh start is exactly what the organization needs.

Gruden's second tenure with the Raiders organization ended with a disgraced coach resigning because of racist, anti-gay and misogynistic remarks he made in past emails. The New York Times' expose obliterated a relationship that Davis termed "a big f'in deal" upon Gruden's hiring. Now less than four years into a 10-year contract, Davis will be forced to look elsewhere while his franchise carries a significant black eye for its belief in a coach who had an outdated and wildly inappropriate mindset.

Before any of Gruden's comments came to light, the Raiders had already begun to struggle. A promising 3-0 start was followed by a two-game losing streak. Normally, a 3-2 record isn't a major cause for concern, but the Raiders' recent history says otherwise.

Last season, the newly minted Las Vegas franchise began the year 6-3 before losing five of its final seven games. In 2019, a 6-4 start turned into a 7-9 record. A 4-12 performance preceded those two seasons. The Raiders have still posted only one winning season since the team made an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII during the 2002 campaign.

Gruden wasn't working out long before his emails forced a departure. It's not an excuse. It's simply the reality of Raiders football and the franchise's longstanding relationship with mediocrity or worse. But sweeping change is exactly what's called for as the team transitions under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia.

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 10:  Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia (L) and head coach Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders talk on the field before their game against the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium on October 10, 2021 in
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Any time an interim opportunity presents itself, the possibility of the situation becoming permanent exists.

The 61-year-old Bisaccia has been an assistant head coach with four different NFL franchises. He has the experience to keep the team together during trying times.

Furthermore, the Raiders feature an experienced and capable staff. Gus Bradley has done a wonderful job turning around a Las Vegas defense that struggled greatly in recent years, particularly with creating pressure. Rod Marinelli is widely considered one of the game's best assistant coaches. Greg Olson has been the offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach for seven different NFL franchises.

Generally speaking, one of two things happens when abrupt change occurs. Either the team rallies around the remaining staff, or it falls completely apart. The former seems to be a more likely occurrence with the Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants (after the team's bye) next on the docket. All three are winnable games before the Raiders face the Kansas City Chiefs.

If the squad spins out of control, another candidate will have the opportunity to hire new staff and start anew with different philosophies, schemes and personnel.

Without Gruden, the look of the Raiders will change. Whoever becomes the permanent head coach will want players who fit the new approach. Quarterback automatically jumps to the forefront since Derek Carr holds a $19.8 million salary-cap hit in 2022 with no remaining guaranteed money on his current deal. Carr has spent years dealing with a head coach who always had his eye on other options. Maybe a fresh start is best for the 30-year-old signal-caller.

More movement will almost certainly be seen.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 10:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders waits to be introduced before a game against the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Bears defeated the Raiders 20-9.  (Photo
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Raiders made a rash of bad roster decisions over the last four offseasons, starting with the Khalil Mack trade.

In 2018, the organization signed a large group of aging veterans to short-term deals in order to help facilitate a quick turnaround. The approach didn't work. A year later, Trent Brown and LaMarcus Joyner's free-agent signings ultimately backfired after each inked massive deals. Linebacker Cory Littleton and his three-year, $36 million free-agent contract don't seem to be working out, either.

A little damage control will also be necessary when it comes to those who exceeded expectations. Contract extensions for Maxx Crosby, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller could be affected if the situation isn't handled properly.

From a draft perspective, the Raiders have continually whiffed by reaching for specific talents the front office clearly valued far more than others around the league.

In 2018, Kolton Miller turned out to be an exceptional left tackle, but the second- and third-round selections of P.J. Hall, Brandon Parker and Arden Key didn't develop as expected. Clelin Ferrell doesn't start despite being the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft. 2020 first-rounder Henry Ruggs III is starting to come around at wide receiver, but cornerback Damon Arnette—the Raiders' final first-rounder from the Mack tradehas experienced a disastrous start to his career. Alex Leatherwood, whom the franchise chose with this year's 17th overall pick, has already been moved from right tackle to guard.

Scot Tucker/Associated Press

Davis and Gruden hired Mike Mayock as general manager despite him having zero front-office experience. Mayock is an excellent evaluator, but the position requires more than talent assessment. Maybe an experienced front-office executive can join the organization and help Mayock. Otherwise, a change could be forthcoming in the personnel department as well.

Gruden's remarks and how he carried himself during his time with the Raiders leave a stain on the team's operations. But his comments and attitude don't define Raiders football.

Davis made a mistake because he became infatuated with a coach who previously helped resuscitate the once-proud franchise during his father's ownership. The son of such an influential voice in professional football tried to make his own mark. Davis gambled big and lost.

The Raiders should see what comes next. The right hire can go a long way to changing perceptions. The Raiders are set up to succeed in Las Vegas. In order to do so, the franchise needs the right person to lead the way.

                       

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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