Gruden on the Raiders: ‘I know it gets ugly at times’

   OAKLAND, Calif.—This wasn’t in the script for Jon Gruden. He was supposed to return to Oakland, and with his smile and style, make his team wow us on the field as he did for years in the ESPN booth.

  Did you hear or read anything negative when he took the head coaching job last winter?

  Things have not gone well at all. In fact they’ve gone terribly. The Raiders are 1-6 after their, 42-38, defeat by the Indianapolis Colts at the Coliseum on Sunday and nit-picking fills the room, which is understandable.

   Another TV broadcaster who also was a Raider coach John Madden, would tell us “Winning is a great deodorant.”  But when you don’t win the odor, real or imagined, is very prevalent.

   The smallest items grow enormously, in proportion to the losses.

 First there was trade before the season of arguably Oakland’s best player, defensive end Khalil Mack. Then last week, the Raiders saw off another star, Amari Cooper, the receiver.  After that the story, or rumor, quarterback Derek Carr had lost the respect of the team.

  If the Raiders were any good, that stuff would be trivial. But they’re not any good.  So the trivial becomes monumental, and the head coach and the quarterback become the focus. And controversial.

  “I don’t know where the controversy is coming from,” said Gruden, whose defense against the media was probably a bit more effective than his team’s against the Colts. Indy rolled up 461 yards, compared to Oakland’s 347.

  “The reality is we made a trade,” said Gruden alluding to the deal that sent Cooper, the receiver, to Dallas for a first-round draft pick. “I don’t think it hurt the offense, and I hope Amari Cooper does great. We need to address this roster, and we’re doing the best we can, but I’m not going to keep talking about the critics because we’ve got to get better in a lot of areas.”

  Indeed. Carr played maybe his best game of the year—was it in response to the knocks and questions?—but the defense, as almost every game, was a disaster.  The first quarter, the Colts got the ball and kept it and kept it, 14 minutes 4 seconds out of the total 15.

    “I know it gets ugly at times,” said Gruden, “but in a lot of ways I’m excited about the future.”

  It was George Allen coaching the Washington Redskins who insisted, “The future is now.” True, you need plan for the coming seasons, but with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas in two years it’s doubtful the fans in Oakland—and they awoke for a few loud sessions Sunday—are concerned with 2020 and beyond.

  To the Raiders credit, after trailing 10-0 almost instantly, they worked their way to a 28-21 third quarter lead. But there’s that problem with the defense, especially against a quarterback named Andrew Luck, the overall No. 1 pick, out of Stanford, in the 2011draft. He was 22 of 31 for 339 yards and three touchdowns.

  And there were those agonizing mistakes, rookie punter Johnny Townsend kicking one only 25 yards in the fourth quarter, with the score tied 28-28, and running back  Doug Martin, subbing for the injured Marshawn Lynch,  losing a fumble the first scrimmage play after the Colts went in front, 35-28.

  That’s what happens to bad teams and the reason they are bad teams.

  Carr, throwing for three touchdowns and sneaking a yard for a fourth, was asked if he had been particularly motivated because of the stories about him during the week.

  “No,” said Carr, “I’m the same every day. “I had to answer  some funny questions this week, but I know you guys have to do your jobs. It’s nothing personal. It I’m being honest, as a human, it’s hard.

 “There was nothing that was different in my mindset. I’m already a pretty fiery guy . . . My goodness, enough is enough. The best part of my day Wednesday, media day, was to get back on the field and play football. “

  He was back again Sunday, doing well enough, but the Raiders also were back losing again.

  “It’s tough,” said Jon Gruden.  Tougher than anyone believed it would be.

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