Despite the ups-and-downs of the Raiders' pandemic season, the one positive, consistent thing that has stood out has been the play of the tight end room. This has been a breakout year for tight end Darren Waller, who has made himself into a household name. Waller has broken several tight end records, was selected to his first Pro Bowl and is seven catches away from breaking Tim Brown's record for most receptions in a season in franchise history, a record that has stood since 1997. He's been able to enjoy his most successful season with perennial All-Pro tight end Jason Witten behind him and Foster Moreau, who has the potential of becoming another great tight end to compliment Waller for years to come.
Coach Gruden took some time Wednesday afternoon to discuss the season his three exception tight ends have had this season, and what he expects from them next season.
On the secret to Waller's greatness
"I think there is a common ground there with greatness. They all have a couple things in common. Usually, it's not by accident. They're your hardest workers, they take care of themselves off the field, they're the real deal, and they have so many intangibles you don't have time to list them. But Waller, he's got the Tim Brown Hall of Fame, All-Pro work ethic, concentration, focus, desire, and he has the right attitude every single day. He's a premier competitor in the walkthroughs, in the meetings and on the field, and that's why he's standing where he is today as one of the best."
On Witten's first season with the Raiders
"It's a shame you guys didn't get a chance to see him every day. He's been great. He's been great for the tight ends, he's been great for me, he's been great for our offense. And unfortunately, we have not been able to have a lot of team gatherings, team meals, team meetings because of the protocols and the quarantines and all that stuff. But he's had a real impact on our guys. I'll let them talk about how he's impacted them, but his preparation, his focus, his desire; we've talked about it with Tim Brown and Darren Waller, but he's one of the great war daddies of all-time and he's going to break Tony Gonzalez's record on Sunday, and it's great to have been a small part of that.
On if Witten could go into coaching
"Hell yeah. Yeah, I think Witt wanted to be a coach. I think he'll be a great coach. I think after seeing what we went through this year, I'd say hell no, I think he's going to get back into TV or go do something else. But yeah, I think he'd be a stellar coach. I think he'd be a Tom Landry, a Bill Cowher. I think he's got very good football intellect, he's got great motivational skills, he's an excellent communicator and he loves the game."
On Foster Moreau, his young second-year tight end
"I think statistically and from a playtime standpoint, probably a lot of people will think it's disappointing, but it's a tremendous year for him. I feel the same way about [Marcus] Mariota. They got healthy this year, they're 100 percent ready to roll and I think having an opportunity to be around Jason Witten and learn some of the secrets behind one of the great ones who's going to break an NFL record this Sunday in Denver, he'll be ready to really take off for us and be a big-time player next year."
The Raiders return to Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as they prepare for their regular-season finale against the division-rival Denver Broncos.