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Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

Embracing Ineptitude

Jon Gruden is a genius. Yes, the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, the biggest dumpster fire in professional sports, is a genius.   

No, I haven’t lost my mind—maybe I have, but bear with me. 

Gruden has committed himself to the absolute destruction of the franchise that was 12-4 only two seasons ago. It’s the kind of commitment that makes Bill Belicheck’s commitment to winning look lackadaisical. 

Let’s review:

Gruden traded his two best players in the first half of the season. The Raiders’ only win of the season came against the league’s fellow dumpster fire, the Cleveland Browns, in a game they should not have won. Two weeks ago, the Raiders were obliterated by the 2-8 49ers’ third-string quarterback. 

It’s fair to say Raiders nation is having buyer’s remorse in year one of Gruden’s decade-long contract.  But there may just be some method to his signature madness.

Along with the presumed #1 overall pick, the Raiders will have six picks in the top-100 for the 2019 draft, plus an additional 2020 first and third round pick sent from the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade. The fact that Gruden was able to land a first rounder for a rapidly deteriorating Amari Cooper is a miracle in itself. 

Let’s not forget another coach who plummeted his team’s chances by trading his team’s best player. In 1989, when Cowboys’ head coach Jimmy Johnson traded Pro-Bowl running back Herschel Walker to the Vikings for a deluge of draft picks, most called for Johnson’s head—it didn’t help when the Cowboys finished the season 1-15. But from the seeds of obliteration grew the NFL’s greatest team in the ’90s.

Gruden still has plenty of opportunity to screw it up, especially if he misses on his war chest of draft picks. Football in Oakland (and eventually Las Vegas) will be ugly for a while.

But at least they have a direction (albeit a negative one), something the Broncos have failed to find for three consecutive seasons. Instead, they wander aimlessly through a division that has left them in the rear-view mirror, content with maxing out at seven wins a season, complacent with mediocre quarterbacks. 

Sometimes it’s better to lean into the slide.

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