Jon Gruden

QB Notes: Wentz, Rudolph, Darnold, Carr

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz struggled once again in Philadelphia’s 17-9 loss to the Seahawks. Wentz received a x-ray on his right hand during the second half of the game, but would not blame his poor play on the injury, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. In his postgame press conference, when asked if the injury affected his play, he said, “I don’t think it did.” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson clarified that the x-rays were negative, but Wentz would go through further tests.

Whether the injury played a role or not, Philadelphia needs to find an answer for their offensive woes. Wentz made a number of poor decisions, but two passes to open receivers in the flat that sailed well out of reach were especially emblematic of his problems. The Eagles are now 5-6 on the season, but have a vital stretch of their schedule against Miami, New York, and Washington. It will be crucial for their playoff chances to come out victorious against three of the weakest teams in the league.

Check out some other notes on quarterbacks around the league:

  • After being benched in the Steelers 16-10 win over the Bengals, quarterback Mason Rudolph addressed allegations from Browns defensive end Myles Garrett that Rudolph used a racial slur last week on Thursday Night Football. Rudolph adamantly denied the claims with reporters after the game, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t believe that he would go that route after the fact. But it is what it is and I think I’ve moved on. One day it was tough, but moved on. We’re good to go now.” Rudolph reiterated the claims were “totally untrue” and when asked if he said anything that could have been construed in a racist way he said, ““Absolutely not.’’
  • Young quarterback Sam Darnold was criticized a few weeks ago for talking about the playoffs with half the season remaining, but the young Jets gunslinger is showing progress dealing with the media, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Darnold mentioned that the playoffs were in the back of his mind after 34-3 blowout win against the Raiders, but quickly made clear that he is taking the season one game at a time. This season has definitely been a roller coaster for Darnold who is still looking to string a few strong games together after missing the start of the season dealing with mononucleosis.
  • Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was benched amidst a blowout loss to the Jets by head coach Jon Gruden. The move is not meant to create any controversy at the position, however. Carr was removed alongside other important players in Oakland’s rotation to protect them from injury down 31 in the third quarter. Still, Gruden acknowledged the difficulty decision talking with reporters after the game, according to Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News. “I didn’t want to take him out, but doing what I think is right and I’m sure I’ll be second-guessed for that but I think I’m doing what’s right for our football team.”

Bay Area Notes: Witherspoon, Lee, Verrett, Joyner

49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was expected to be active for Monday Night’s contest against the Seahawks for the first time since Week 3. However, Witherspoon remained on the team’s inactive list. According to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, Witherspoon feels 100%, but he did not get to participate in a full practice this week. Thus, the team plans to give him a full week of practice before rejoining the starting lineup next week against the Cardinals.

Rookie undrafted free agent Emmanuel Mosley has been fantastic in place of Witherspoon and surely made the decision to play it safe with Witherspoon easier. At 8-0, San Francisco has a fantastic opportunity to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the number one seed in the NFC with a win tonight.

Here’s more from around the Bay Area:

  • Raiders linebacker Marquel Lee has rejoined the team’s practices, according to Howard Balzer. Lee was placed on injured reserve in September with an ankle injury, however, the team designated him for a possible return. Balzer’s report signals the beginning of a 21-day practice period for Lee to practice with the team before Oakland must decide to reactivate him or leave him on IR for the rest of the season.
  • Cornerback Jason Verrett was among the 49ers on the field for warm-ups on Monday Night before their matchup with Seattle, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. While normally a player warming up before a game wouldn’t be newsworthy, Verrett is currently on the injured reserve with a designation to potentially return later in the season. Per Barrows, he has not been on the field since his injury two months ago. Since Verrett is not eligible to return until December 1, it is a very good sign for the team to see him making progress.
  • Jon Gruden told reporters that Raiders slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is questionable with a hamstring injury, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. Gruden went on to say that Nevin Lawson will get the first opportunity to replace Joyner. Rookie fourth round pick Isaiah Johnson, recently activated from the injured reserve, will get an opportunity to receive snaps at the outside cornerback position and possibly move veteran Daryl Worley inside to the slot as well, per Bair.

‘Many Expect’ Jay Gruden To Eventually Join Raiders?

Jay Gruden became the first head coach fired in 2019 when the Redskins canned him last week, but he probably won’t have too difficult of a time finding a new job. Gruden is a highly regarded offensive mind despite Washington’s struggles, and is respected across the league. 

It also doesn’t hurt that Gruden’s brother, Jon Gruden, is currently the head coach of the Raiders. To that end, “many expect” that Jay will “resurface next season” as a member of Oakland’s staff, writes Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. We heard recently that Gruden is expected to take the rest of this season off from coaching, so this lines up with that. The same report indicated Gruden will hunt for a head coaching job next offseason, but if he strikes out on that then the Raiders look like a likely destination.

Interestingly, Schefter points out that the Raiders never hired a quarterbacks coach this offseason, and that Gruden sliding into that role “could be the perfect move” as the team prepares to move to Las Vegas. Gruden still had another year left on his Redskins contract that he’ll presumably be getting paid for, so he won’t be in any rush to take an undesirable job.

The Gruden brothers have worked together before, as Jay served as an offensive assistant under his older brother in Tampa Bay for seven seasons. Gruden eventually landed the gig as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, where he impressed with his ability to coax strong performances out of Andy Dalton. He got the Redskins job after that, and spent five-plus seasons in the nation’s capital before getting fired. Jon recently declined to comment on the possibility of reuniting with his brother.

Antonio Brown Recorded Jon Gruden With Consent

It seems that Antonio Brown‘s pseudo-commerical – featuring sound bites of a phone conversation with Jon Gruden – was part of his social media campaign to push the Raiders for his release. It was speculated that Brown recorded Gruden without his consent, which would open the wide receiver up to legal consequences and NFL discipline. 

Apparently, that’s not the case. The producer of the video tells ESPN’s Dan LeBatard that Gruden approved the use of their conversation (Twitter link).

This would help to explain why Gruden reportedly thought the video was “awesome,” though Brown was released hours after its release. Apparently, this was not the straw that broke the camel’s back, probably because there were many other straws that infuriated the Raiders far more.

Brown, the newest member of the Patriots (somehow), has himself a one-year deal worth up to $15MM, plus a 2020 club option that could be worth $20MM. Here’s the Year One breakdown, per Rapoport (Twitter link): $9MM signing bonus ($5MM paid now, $4MM later), $1MM base pay, $500K in46-man roster bonuses, and “Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives of $1.5MM for each of the following: 105 catches, 1,298 yards, 16 TDs.

Given Brown’s ability and past production, those benchmarks are far from “not likely.” However, for cap purposes, they are designated as NLTBEs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Raiders, Antonio Brown

Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown and GM Mike Mayock got into it this week, and details of the argument are starting to emerge. At some point during the exchange, Brown cursed out Mayock and called him a “cracker,” according to ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson

It was previously reported that Brown also threatened to punch Mayock in the face and punted a football during the exchange. After sending the ball into the sky, Brown told the GM, “Fine me for that!” Mayock, it seems, is ready to take things a step further by suspending the mercurial star, which would put his ~$30MM guarantee in jeopardy.

Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, admits that Brown’s relationship with Mayock is not a great place. Meanwhile, he insists that Brown is on good terms with head coach Jon Gruden.

Right now I think (Antonio Brown’s) relationship with Coach Gruden is good, very good. I’m not going to get into his relationship with Mike Mayock, but I will say that we’re hopeful that that will be a good one, as well. It has been in the past,” Rosenhaus said in an interview on ESPN.

The Raiders are reportedly set to suspend Brown, but nothing has officially happened on that front.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AB Notes: Gruden, Guarantees, Personal Conduct Policy

Following a chaotic day in Oakland, head coach Jon Gruden finally had a chance to address the Antonio Brown fiasco.

“Like I said, I’m not going to get into all of this,” Gruden said (via ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez). “Obviously, he wasn’t here today and when we have some information for you, we’ll give it to you. …I’ve been talking about the same guy every day.

“…I’m emotional about it, I hope you understand why. I think a lot of this guy. I think Antonio is a great receiver, and deep down I think he’s a really good guy. So, I’m frustrated, I’m not going to say anything more about it, hope it all works out. But I don’t have anything official to say about anything else, until I get all the facts and that’s what I’m going to do.”

At the very least, Gruden will have to prepare for Monday night’s season opener without the star receiver. We learned earlier this evening that the team was proceeding as if Brown won’t be available for Week 1.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Oakland…

  • We learned earlier that the Raiders could suspend Brown with the intention of voiding his more than $30MM in guarantees. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reviewed the receiver’s contract, and he notes that Brown’s behavior (and subsequent fines) already put him in default. Since he left training camp and later missed a walkthrough, the organization would already have the right to void the guarantees. In other words, if the team is done with Brown, a suspension wouldn’t have to precede his inevitable release.
  • If it’s true that Brown threatened to hit general manager Mike Mayock, then the receiver could also face discipline under the NFL Personal Conduct Policy (per Florio). It sounds like Brown couldn’t be suspended for the same violation by both the organization and the NFL, although Florio notes that the Raiders could justify some other reason for banning the wideout.
  • Agent Drew Rosenhaus talked to Stacey Dales on NFL Network, and colleague James Palmer snagged a couple of the soundbites (via Twitter). “I believe he wants to be an Oakland Raider,” Rosenhaus said. “I believe he wants to play. I believe he’s going to have a great season.” The agent also said he’s having ongoing negotiations with the team, but there’s no real timeline for a resolution.
  • Florio also got quotes from Rosenhaus (via PFT’s Michael David Smith): “I think there’s been a lot of speculation. The reality is that we’re still talking through many scenarios. There has yet to be a suspension. Nothing is final yet. I’ve been in touch with Coach Gruden, Mike Mayock. We’re doing our best to work this out. Trying to keep this relationship moving in a good direction again.”

Jon Gruden Defends Antonio Brown

We heard Friday that new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown is expected to rejoin the team shortly, a report that came on the heels of a great deal of Brown-related drama this week. We learned that the foot injury that has been plaguing Brown stemmed from a cryogenic chamber mishap, and we also learned that Brown has been staying away from team practices after being barred from wearing the helmet that he has used throughout his career.

After Oakland’s preseason victory over the Rams last night, head coach Jon Gruden was predictably asked a series of questions about Brown’s status, and Gruden was 100% supportive of his enigmatic superstar. He said (via Grant Gordon of NFL.com), “[w]e’re gonna support him. And whatever his decision is, we’ll stand by it. But we’re confident he’s going to be a huge factor for the Raiders for years to come.”

Gruden also indicated that the foot injury, which was said to be a result of Brown’s failure to wear proper footwear when he underwent cryogenic therapy, was not actually AB’s fault. Gruden said, “I don’t know what anybody’s writing or anybody thinks, but this foot injury wasn’t his fault. This was a total accident. It really wasn’t his fault and it’s a serious injury. I know some people are smarting at it, but it’s really not a laughing matter. The guy was hurt. He’s innocent, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

With respect to the helmet issue, Gruden added, “the helmet thing is a personal matter to him. He has a strong feeling about what he’s worn on his head and we’re supporting him. We understand the league’s position as well, so we’re in a tough spot. And we hope Antonio is back here soon, because he’s exciting to be around. I’m excited. I got some plays for him, I hope we can start calling them.”

A ruling on Brown’s grievance against the league is expected to be issued soon, but if Brown is forced to wear a different helmet, he will try to hold the league liable for any head injury he may suffer, as a source with knowledge of the hearing tells Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. The source said, “I think it’ll be interesting if the NFL forces Antonio to wear a different helmet. And he does play and he doesn’t retire as some people have reported he will do. And then he suffers a really severe injury. I’d hate to be the NFL. Because now you’ve forced him into wearing a different type of helmet. And I think at that point, though, the liability will be dramatic.”

Of course, the NFL wants Brown to play in a helmet that is believed to be more resistant to head injuries than the one he has always worn, so it seems that the league would have a strong argument if Brown was made to switch and suffered a head injury. On the surface, it sounds like it would be difficult for Brown to prove that the change was a proximate cause of any injury he may sustain.

Nonetheless, Brown is pulling out all the stops to get what he wants, and Gruden and Raiders fans will just have to continue to hope that he shows up soon.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, the team could force the issue by sending Brown the notorious five-day letter (which, as the name implies, would require Brown to return within five days of the letter). If he doesn’t return, the Raiders would be able to shut him down for the season and absolve themselves of any obligation to pay him, but given Gruden’s comments, it does not sound as if Oakland is preparing to take such an aggressive stance at this point.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Isaiah Crowell To Visit Raiders

The Raiders have made some splash moves in free agency but still have openings at running back. Isaiah Crowell will make a trip to Oakland as a potential solution, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Jon Gruden, in particular, wants the Raiders to sign Crowell, Rapoport adds. So this partnership appears to have a good chance of happening. Crowell’s visit, his first in this free agency period, will occur Thursday.

The Jets released Crowell earlier this offseason, doing so after one season. Crowell did well on a per-carry basis in New York, matching his career high with 4.8 yards per carry. But the Jets gave the 2018 free agent acquisition a career-low 143 carries. Crowell, 26, finished with 685 yards. The Jets replaced him with Le’Veon Bell, who was also on the Raiders’ radar. Although, the Silver and Black did not appear to make a serious run at the longtime Steeler.

Crowell has 27 career rushing touchdowns and surpassed 850 ground yards in his final two Browns seasons, doing so despite the team often trailing in a 1-31 stretch.

Marshawn Lynch‘s status with the Raiders is up in the air, and despite Gruden indicating he was in favor of a Doug Martin return, that has not come to fruition. Jalen Richard has yet to sign his second-round tender, but the fourth-year passing-down back doing so would appear likely. DeAndre Washington remains on the team as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

The Raiders are still waiting to see how veteran running back Marshawn Lynch recovers from his groin injury to decide if they bring him back in 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch writes

Lynch, who will turn 33 before the 2019 season kicks off, is expected to have more of an interest in returning to his hometown team now that the team will for sure be playing their games in the Bay Area. Head coach Jon Gruden said the decision is one that will likely play itself out before the draft.

“I think the coming weeks will give us a better indication where is physically,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 agenda. We have to find out officially how he has responded to the injury. We’ll know something here in a couple of weeks.”

Though his season was cut short by that groin injury, Lynch still managed to average 4.2 yards per carry while gaining 376 yards on the ground. The five-time Pro Bowl selection ranks 29th all time in rushing yards and 16th in rushing touchdowns.

The Raiders are sure to be in the market for a running back as both Lynch and Doug Martin are free agents heading into 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jon Gruden Discusses Raiders’ Plans For Draft, Free Agency

The Raiders are armed with three first-round picks heading into April’s draft, providing the organization with plenty of flexibility. Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock will have to decide how they’ll want to use their early-round picks, but it sounds like the team is certainly open to making some deals.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for trades, and I think that’s one of the things I’m excited about [with] Mike Mayock,” Gruden said during his appearance on “The Game Plan” podcast on the Raiders Podcast Network (via Raiders.com). “What he brings to the table, he’s got great resources around the NFL. He’s been in every building, he’s on a first-name basis, everybody knows Mike and I think he’s going to be on the phones quite a bit with the two picks you talked about. Who knows, we may move up with the No. 4 pick, we may move back with that pick. We’ll see how it all unfolds.”

In the first round, the Raiders have their own pick (#4), the Bears’ pick (#24), and the Cowboys’ pick (#27). Otherwise, the team has seven selections between the second and seventh round.

Of course, the organization is also focused on free agency. While Gruden seemed to indicate that the team will be active, he also cautioned that they’ll be targeting a specific grouping of players.

“We’ve been doing nothing but studying free agents,” Gruden said. “Guys [whose] contracts are up, obviously we aren’t looking to add players that are at the end of their career. We’re looking for blossoming young players, those guys usually don’t get to free agency. The pickings are slim for everybody, but there are a couple diamonds in the rough. We’ll see where the market goes, but you don’t want to spend all your money that you have on a few free agents, you want to try and keep some of that money available in case a trade might develop during the draft.”

After signing a 10-year, $100MM contract last offseason, Gruden’s team disappointed during his first season at the helm. The team ultimately finished the season 4-12, their worst showing since 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.