Can Gruden juggle the strong personalities on the Raiders?

Dayna O’Gorman
Senior NFL Reporter

By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG

Let’s just all admit it. The minute we saw that John Gruden had been paid an insane amount of money to become the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, we knew we were in for a wild ride. While his first season didn’t live up to the hype, it has been nothing but Must See TV ever since the season ended.

Let us quickly recap.

First, the disaster that was the 2018 season. With a record of 4-12, Gruden’s first season as head coach was underwhelming to say the least. In a year where the AFC West was a stand out division, the Raiders were the bottom dwellers. The tone of the season was set very early with the trade of linebacker Khalil Mack to Chicago, then later in the season the trade of wide receiver Amari Cooper to Dallas. Gruden didn’t hide the fact he was completely overhauling the team and managed to get some great draft capital in the process. While fans weren’t happy, the value received was fantastic.

Then came the stadium drama. The Raiders almost didn’t have a place to play in 2019. With a lawsuit from the city of Oakland, the San Francisco 49ers refusing to waive their territorial rights to allow the Raiders to play in the Giants MLB stadium, and their swank new stadium in Las Vegas not ready until the beginning of the 2020 season (however, the completion date keeps getting pushed back). After a lot of negotiation, the City of Oakland and the Raiders came to an agreement for the team to play in Oakland in 2019, which the owners approved at the league spring meetings.

Heading into 2019, the fans were waiting breathlessly to see what Gruden would do next. What would he do with all those draft picks? Would free agency be a factor in Oakland? Gruden, true to form, made a splash.

Antonio Brown! The Raiders grabbed the golden goose! After a less than amicable departure from Pittsburgh, the Brown lottery was fun to watch. The reaction of him landing in Oakland was excitement for Raider fans, and a sigh of relief from other fan bases who were worried about the drama he may bring. We have to remember that Brown had a “questionable injury” that many believe he faked, left a game at half time, and acted as a free agent even though he was under contract. While many teams ran the other direction from Brown, Gruden embraced him and his antics. It will be interesting to see if Gruden can handle him if Brown decides he’s disgruntled again.

Then the Raiders signed LB Vontaze Burfict and there was a collective gasp from the football world. I mean… really Gruden? Are you sure about this?

Talented? Without question. Troubled? Yes. The number of times Burfict has been fined or suspended is well into the double digits. Some even call him the dirtiest player in the League. However, there are reports that Gruden was “pounding the table” for the Raiders to sign him. He wanted him just as bad as he wanted Brown. We will see if a change of scenery, and a new head coach, can calm Burfict and the behaviors he had in Cincinnati.

One thing to keep in mind is Burfict was fined twice for hits on Brown, one time giving him a concussion in a playoff game. Brown is blaming the NFL for trying to stir up drama but you have to admit, it could be a fun dynamic to watch.

Popcorn, anyone? I’m pretty sure this tweet sums it all up.

Now I admit, I love players with big personalities, but we’ve also seen what they can do to a team. For a season or two, when all the adrenaline is pumping and the players feel like they have something to prove, it can be a huge shot in the arm for a team. But often, eventually, those personalities start to butt heads either with each other or with the coaching staff. We’ve seen it happen over and over. Seattle, Pittsburgh, Dallas, it’s a long list. It will be interesting to see if Gruden can keep it all under control.

Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG

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