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Life of ‘Hard Knocks’: Oakland Raiders begin year 2 under Jon Gruden

Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden

(Image by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

There’s Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s system.

Then there’s, well, Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s system.

Hmm … sensing a pattern here?

If so, nice pick up. Although it does seem abundantly apparent that Gruden’s grittily determined (if you can imagine that) to show doubters were, let’s say, misguided in second-guessing his coaching chops and, yes, system, after an obviously disappointing 4-12 performance by the Raiders last season. One which Oakland fans almost certainly didn’t text home about.

What do we have here? The Gruden way, under scrutiny? Blasphemy, right?

If that wasn’t a tough enough pill for the coach to crunch down to powder, Gruden’s long brooked the notion he snagged the one Super Bowl he won, with the Buccaneers, with the handiwork of previous head coach Tony Dungy’s team — rather than a squad (the Raiders) he realized supposedly knew their every play from coaching the previous four seasons.

What’s more — and not to pile on here — but, well, to pile on — Gruden was also haunted by the lumps he took last season for moves like jettisoning star pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears and wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys, as reported by Clutchpoints.com.

In fact, according to NBC Sports, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport explained:

“The way that Jon Gruden handles personnel has caused a divide in that building. Here’s why: Gruden has what has amounted to his own personnel staff, he has people like Dave Rozzano, who is Head of Football Research, who came to prominence on Twitter with several wild takes, including Jake Locker should be the #1 pick. He has essentially become Gruden’s right-hand man. Gruden also has his own draft board, his own personnel board, his own people that help him make cut-ups.”

Heavy.com reported that NFL Analyst Mike Florio said this on the team’s offseason moves:

“The organization has collected pieces and parts that may or may not fit together, starting with the rush trade for (they got a great deal) and pay (they possibly didn’t get a great deal) receiver Antonio Brown.”

Brown, of course, was obtained by the Raiders following nine seasons in Pittsburgh. According to Sporting News, the Raiders signed the 31-year-old to a three-year, $50,125,000 contract.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown looks on during the NFL football game between the New England Patriots

(Image by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Enough already? Not quite. CBS Sports reported that, for starters, in terms of schematics, scouting, and roster building, the NFL’s a very different league since Gruden last coached in 2008.

Wai—–? Wha—-? … Sounds like Gruden’s being subjected to a particularly harsh volley of hard knocks, does it?

All right. Who said that? You. Third row … one … two … three … four seats from the right. We all know it was you.

Saw your lips moving.

In fact, they still are.

OK, now I get it. It’s ESPN, calling attention to the Raiders’ appearance this season on the network series Hard Knocks. It debuts August 6.

Sly ploy.

But seriously, who wouldn’t tune in just to see whether Gruden mugs for the cameras or, heck, outright mugs one. I mean, shoot, as long as it’s there and at least reasonably tricky to mount, why not clock it, huh?

If that doesn’t scream must-watch TV, there’s this: It’s easy to fathom Gruden leveraging the show in his own indomitable way as a platform to loudly demonstrate to the world that 2018 was nothing but a wildly unlikely aberration, and how he’d build the Raiders to fit his system and into Super Bowl contenders.

Not to hawk the show and do ESPN’s promo department’s job, mind you. Legal here would have of none of that. I mean, you can always tune into Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York instead.

Watch or not, darn if there aren’t those loath to doubt Chucky. Frankly, their resistance is merited. In 11 NFL seasons, he racked up a 95-81 record, reported CBS Sports. What’s more, he’s been to the postseason fives times and was awarded the Lombardi Trophy in 2002 — his maiden season in Tampa Bay. He had only three losing seasons during that period and posted a minimum of 10 victories four times.

As if Snarky’s confidence needed a boost.

Well, with Raiders Training Camp well underway at their Napa Valley Training Complex, there’s no need to go to your imagination to conjure what Gruden might come up with. Although, c’mon; that’s a terrible waste of a hotshot app.

Little time lapsed at camp before he got down to it. Yahoo! Sports reported that Gruden kicked things off with a “bizarre” team speech, filmed by none other than a Hard Knocks crew.

“‘I’m really not into dreams anymore, OK?’ Gruden said as the rookies looked on. ‘I’m into f—ing nightmares. You guys with me on that? You gotta end somebody’s dream. You gotta take their job. You gotta take their heart! Are you guys clear about this NFL s–t now? We’re not trying to go to the Peach Bowl. We’re not trying to go to the Gator Bowl, or the Bluebonnet Bowl. We’re trying to go the Super Bowl. Okay? And to do that, you gotta try to end somebody’s dreams.’”

Yo, skip. Message, umm, received.

On a relatively softer note (What? Guy can’t do rainbows and cupcakes?), The Washington Post reported Gruden’s growing affinity for QB Nathan Peterman, whose previous stop, in Buffalo — to put it mildly — fell far short of floating the Bills’ boat. Peterman and Mike Glennon are vying to backstop starter Derek Carr.

“I like these guys,” Gruden said as he prepares for the Raiders to open its preseason schedule against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday. “This Nate Peterman is growing on me. He’s athletic. I know he’s had some nightmare performances in the NFL, but when you watch the film you can see why. It’s not all his fault but he’s got some talent, he’s got some athleticism, he’s got some experience.”

That’s right. Joe friggin’ Montana reincarnated.

Oakland Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr (4) after being taken out of the game

(Image by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Raiders also like what they see among three young receivers, according to Silverandblackpride.com. They include rookie Keelan Doss; Marcell Ateman, a seventh-round pick last season; and, perhaps most impressively, J.J. Nelson.

“Coach told me he was proud of me during OTA’s because this playbook is, you know, it can be a lot,” said Nelson. “But you can be anywhere, anytime, any moment, so I’m out here running routes that I haven’t ran since high school and college. I feel like I’m going pretty good about it.”

One guy Gruden’s not feeling all that good about is receiver Brown. Sporting News reported he was a no-show his second straight day of the Raiders Training Camp last week.

“I think we’re all disappointed,” Gruden said following practice, per ESPN. “We think he’s disappointed. We’d like to get the party started. We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of the team.”

Tribulations like that aside, as camp rolls on, some, like Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead, are chiming in on Gruden’s behalf. “I think Gruden understands what needs to be done,” said Whitehead, according to Clutchpoints. “He’s taken every course of action, along with (new GM Mike Mayock), to get back on the right track.”

According to Doug Martin, “There is something special brewing,” reported Raiders.com.

So, whether you wax poetic or talk smack about Gruden and the Raiders until you’re 50 shades of silver and black, the coach, who probably never met a mic he didn’t do java with — or disassemble with a single blow — spoke volumes when he put his behemoth contract where his mouth was. Last August, USA Today reported that Gruden said, “If I can’t get it done, I’m not going to take their (the Oakland Raiders’) money.”

Not exactly small change: The site reported that Gruden left the ESPN booth to sign a 10-year, $100 million contract — the richest for any coach in team history.

However, beyond the distractions, the only thing that really matters is whether Raiders ownership will flash enough patience to see if Gruden’s system rocks, or show him and his system the door if the team fizzles again.

For what it’s worth, he’s one of 12 coaches on the hot seat this season, Raiders Wire reported in May.

According to Barry Werner of the Touchdown Wire, “This could be a bit premature but when you have a massive contract big things are expected.”

However, noted Raiders Wire, look for the Raiders to continue to honor Gruden’s contract — regardless of how they perform this season.

Regardless of how—-? Wai … Wha … ? Who said that? Oh. It’s Chucky, with one question: What’s that supposed to mean?