With three games left in the season and the Raiders playoff hopes still in the balance, the Silver and Black are turning all of their attention to the defense.
The Raiders elevated defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator Sunday night, after relieving Paul Guenther of his duties following the 27-44 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Gruden said it was "tough decision" parting with Guenther after nearly three seasons with the team, however the franchise felt that they needed "a new voice right now."
"It's really hard because I have a lot of respect for this guy, Paul Guenther," said Gruden on Monday afternoon. "He's a good friend of mine, always will be. It was very hard to do. I really feel for the best interest of this team right now, we need a new voice. We need somebody that has a different perspective, a different approach, and I think it'll help us. It'll help the young group of guys that we're coaching here."
In Guenther's place, the Raiders defense will be lead by Marinelli, who has more than 45 years of coaching experience under his belt. Marinelli won a Super Bowl in 2002 as the assistant head coach and defensive line coach under Jon Gruden with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Marinelli also has head coaching and defensive coordinator experience with the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys won three NFC East divisional titles with Marinelli before he was hired by the Las Vegas Raiders in February 2020.
"I think he's one of the great teachers and great motivators and great people that I've met in this business," Gruden said of Marinelli. "He looks forward to adversity; he thrives in it. I think he looks forward to these challenges of building this defense and putting it all together. That's why we brought him here in the first place."
"It'll certainly help if his soldiers get healthy up front, but he has great experience and has a great amount of experience in situations like this."
Marinelli's soldiers will definitely have a short task among them as they get ready to face their divisional rival Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football in Allegiant Stadium. The health of the defense is concerning going into Thursday's game with Clelin Ferrell (shoulder), Johnathan Abram (concussion) and Nicholas Morrow (concussion) all getting injured in the loss against the Colts. To go along with those injuries, the Raiders must face Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Herbert and versatile running back Austin Ekeler, who has returned from injury since their last meeting earlier this season.
"Ekeler is a guy that can catch you from anywhere on the field, in the slot, as a receiver, coming out of the backfield," said Gruden. "And Justin Herbert is a guy we know first-hand can make all the plays."
"We'll have our hands full again, and that's why we have to get back to work."