The Oakland Raiders have experienced a lot of turnover the last few months, but the pieces General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Jon Gruden have added are worth getting excited about.
Wednesday, Raiders legend – and Pro Football Hall of Famer - John Madden hosted his annual bocce ball tournament with former NFL Head Coach Steve Mariucci. During his nine seasons as a coach, Mariucci finished his career with an overall record of 72-67. The current NFL Network analyst took a moment in between bocce matches to share his high expectations for the Raiders in 2018.
"I think they're in a division – you've got the quarterback Derek Carr, and you add [Martavis] Bryant, and Jordy Nelson, and you add some good pieces to that puzzle," he said. "They're a better football team, and you've got the Denver Broncos. Are they a better team than they used to be? I don't know, I think they came back a bit. No Alex Smith in Kansas City, so you've got Patrick Mahomes, a young guy. Then you've got Philip Rivers who's a heck of a player, but you know he's only going to be around a little bit longer. So, I think this is the time for the Raiders to make their climb in the division."
Many expected the Silver and Black to continue their return to prominence in 2017, but that unfortunately didn't pan out the way the team hoped. Under the leadership of Gruden, and with a more-than-capable quarterback at the helm, Mariucci thinks the Raiders can boast one of the most-dominant offenses this season, despite the idea that Gruden has been away from the game for "too long."
"Nobody watches more film than Gruden," he said with a grin. "There's nothing that's going on with the spread offense, and all the zone-read stuff that they're doing in high school and college that's gone passed Gruden. He's been studying this stuff, watching it, probably more than anybody. He does the quarterback camps, he stays very, very busy, he's a football fanatic, and he soaks it all in. He's not going to skip a beat.
"He's old school, and there's an element to that, that's really good," he continued. "Players like structure, all players like some discipline. I think he's going to be very well-received by this football team; they'll make progress. We all know he's a fired up guy, but I think the team will take on the personality of its coach, and he'll be pretty lathered up for games."
Gruden's love for the city of Oakland is unconditional, and when asked whether Mariucci could've seen him coaching any other team, he said that for Gruden to go anywhere else wouldn't have made sense. "Mooch" also anticipates the offense to take a step forward under the offensive mastermind.
"It's [the offense] going to be fun to watch," Mariucci said. "Derek Carr is going to love Gruden's offense – just telling you that right now – and I know Jon is really happy to be back. I don't know if he would've gone anywhere else besides the Raiders if he were to leave the ESPN Monday Night [Football] booth."
Mariucci made it abundantly clear that the future is bright with Gruden leading the way, but he's also excited to see some development from the rookies, and the defense.
"Kolton Miller is a tall guy from UCLA, and they need a tackle," he said. "You need to protect your quarterback, protect your franchise. Added a couple of new weapons to throw to, and so I just think gradually that defense will become a real, legitimate defense. You can't fix it in one offseason, but they're on the right track."
According to "Mooch", the Raiders are beginning to see the stars align. 2018 should be a fun year for the Silver and Black.