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Jon Gruden appears to live in an alternate reality.
Either that, or he truly knows things that the rest of us don’t.
The embattled Oakland Raiders coach who eschews analytics, leans on coaching tactics from decades past and leads one of the most broken locker rooms in the NFL insists that his team remains a prime destination for NFL players.
He says has the phone calls to prove it.
Jon Gruden: Players ‘dying to come play here’
Gruden told Fox Sports ahead of Thursday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers that his phone is blowing up with people wanting to join his team.
“I got a cell phone just like you and everybody else,” Gruden said. “I get a lot of phone calls from people that are dying to come play here. I’m just telling you. They’re dying to play for the Raiders.
“To have salary-cap space and to have a chance to talk to the people that you really want to wear the silver and black – the guys you really want to wear the silver and black and represent this team, that’s exciting.”
Gruden leaning heavily on Raiders lore
While giving a sales pitch that hints at tampering, Gruden lays it on thick with Raiders lore in the clip, from pumping up the “silver and black” to pronouncing the team’s moniker like he’s Chris Berman delivering “NFL Prime Time” highlights in 1993.
It’s a good trope to lean on. No matter where the Raiders reside, whether Oakland, L.A. or Las Vegas, it’s a brand that retains loyalty and rabid fans.
It’s also about all the franchise has going for it right now. It’s been a long time since the Raiders were truly relevant, and Gruden has torn down any remnants of recent success in short order since arriving this offseason.
Gruden can build Raiders in his image before move
He’s going to have his chance to build the team in his image as the team prepares its farewell to California and sets sights on the Nevada desert. A 10-year, $100 million deal assures him of that.
But he’ll need a better pitch than touting the good ol’ silver and black to make the Raiders a true destination. Nobody playing in the NFL now remembers the Raiders’ glory days. Right now, the franchise is associated with losing and dysfunction from the top down.
But the team will have salary cap space. And it has stockpiled draft picks. There will be an opportunity for Gruden to take shots at players “you really want to wear the silver and black.”
It will be Gruden’s chance to prove his critics wrong or go down in flames trying while moving into a shiny new stadium.
Either way, it should be a show worthy of Las Vegas.
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