Jon Gruden’s long, intolerant shadow will hang over the Las Vegas Raiders franchise for months, if not years. But the events and sordid revelations of the past week don’t necessarily have to blot out a once — and potentially still — promising season. That’s why the Raiders’ new power trio — owner Mark Davis, fully-empowered general manager Mike Mayock, and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia — were determined Wednesday to shift the focus from the recent past to the future.
Fresh message from interim head coach Rich Bisaccia
Good on the Raiders’ trifecta for moving forward. Gruden is gone in disgrace, but he didn’t make a single pass, run, block, or tackle in the season’s first five weeks. The players who did are still here. And Bisaccia is determined to not waste the potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
But first, he had to hit the reset button. That came Wednesday morning when first Davis and then Bisaccia addressed the team. It was the first time Bisaccia did so as a head football coach at any level. A big part of his message?
“Their goals are still alive.”
Which is absolutely correct. The Raiders are 3-2 and currently the seventh seed in the AFC. Reminder — seven teams make the playoffs from each conference now. And the Raiders, with a talented roster and an experienced coaching staff, aren’t planning to merely play out the string over the next three months.
“We have a good team. We have high expectations, high standards,” Bisaccia said. The Raiders’ losses in each of the past two weeks were “a bump in the road, not the end of the road.”
Can the Raiders turn things around against the Broncos on Sunday?
In a weird way, Las Vegas might be better off without Gruden — at least in the short term. It would have been untenable for him to remain a leader of these men after his long history of racist, sexist, and homophobic private language became public. Not with dozens of Black players and Carl Nassib, the NFL’s first openly gay player, in the locker room.
It’s no coincidence that the Raiders came out flat and disinterested against the Bears in Week 5 — and that was after just one Gruden slur was leaked. His resignation was addition by subtraction.
But there’s no deficit in credibility atop the coaching staff now that Bisaccia is in charge. He’s a popular, respected coach with decades of experience.
Our guess is the Raiders will respond with emotion Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Raiders’ coaching staff, roster remain in place
From an operational standpoint, not a ton will change. Longtime NFL offensive coordinator Greg Olson will take over play-calling duties, but it’s not like he’s going to trash Gruden’s system. Derek Carr is still under center. The defense didn’t suddenly purge a bunch of talent.
Plus the upcoming schedule isn’t exactly daunting. Las Vegas’ remaining opponents are .500.
“The common denominator from the players has been focus and professionalism and that’s what I’ve gotten back from them,” Mayock said Wednesday. “We’ve worked too hard, we’ve put too much into this, we believe in Rich and we’re going forward, we’re moving forward.”
Is that wishful thinking more than reality? Perhaps. But sometimes you can speak things into existence.
“I think the mood is good,” Bisaccia said. “.. My concern is, ‘what’s it going to be five days from now? What’s it going to be a week from now?'”
The calendar is an ally in that regard. After visiting Denver, the Raiders host the Eagles and then get a bye. It’s entirely conceivable that they get to that bye 5-2. And then, who knows?
“We’re all in,” Mayock said. “Every single one of our goals is still out there.”