The Oakland Raiders released All-Pro punter Marquette King last Friday to mixed reviews. Over the weekend, and even today, critics have lined up to shown their displeasure, and all fingers point to Raiders Coach Jon Gruden.
This is just the latest volley in a series of moves that has many pundits questioning whether or not today’s NFL game has passed him by.
When a group of journalists sat down with Gruden at the NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando last week, I asked Gruden what he had to say to the local and national media that has expressed its concern.
“I got to prove it, but who are my critics,” Gruden asked. “Has anyone criticized them? You know you are going to be criticized…I am doing the best I can. I’ll do the best I can, that’s all I’ll say. I am going to try to be wide open, I am going to try and be more flexible this time. But I have got to adapt. You either adapt or die, and I don’t plan on dying.”
Gruden knows he has the bullseye on his back. He understands this is a prove-it league, but at the same time, Gruden is going to “adapt or die” his way. If you are not with the program, or your contract does not equal your production, he is going to move on. Some people will criticize this method. At the end of the day, Gruden’s Raiders have not played a single snap. They have not had a single practice together, nor have they drafted their future crop of players. No matter what you think of Gruden, to jump to conclusions before seeing the product on the field, or the decisions he makes as coach, is simply ridiculous.
Everyone’s a critic these days, but maybe they should temper that with patience. Imagine walking in on a brain surgeon in the middle of removing a tumor and not understanding the context. Whether fans or critics like it or not, there is a lot going on, but there is a method to what Gruden is doing. He is reshaping the team into his image. It’s an image he believes is synonymous with Raiders football.
When all is said or done, win or lose, it will all be on Jon Gruden.
It’s just too early to make assumptions on whether or not that approach will be successful.