Jon Gruden has scouted a lot of players in his day, but he considers defensive line coach Rod Marinelli as the best recruiting job of his career.
When Gruden was traded from the Raiders to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, he inherited a new coaching staff, knowing a few coaches would leave for other jobs, but he was adamant about retaining Marinelli.
"When I was coaching the Raiders previously, [Marinelli] was in Tampa Bay with Coach [Tony] Dungy and Monte Kiffin, and that crowd," Gruden recalled Monday. "I lived in Tampa, so I became very familiar with him and when I got traded or fired, or whatever it was, I was fortunate enough to keep him and let him be our defensive line coach. I'm happy to have done my best recruiting job of all time to keep him in Tampa."
Marinelli, like Gruden, is the last of a dying breed of coaches who eat, breathe, and sleep football — sure, all coaches say they do, but these two mean it. Through the years, Marinelli has earned a legendary reputation for developing defensive linemen and extracting their potential, which is why Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock wouldn't rest until he became a member of the Raiders' coaching staff this offseason.
Marinelli's message to his players is simple: Don't think, just go. It's all about effort; he wants his players to attack quarterbacks like a moth drawn to a flame, which resonates with budding star Maxx Crosby, who brings effort on every snap.
"The number one thing is effort with him," Crosby said after practice Monday. "He wants us to sprint to the ball like crazy. So, me personally, I've been trying to overemphasize running to the ball and I know the other guys are too. I'm trying to set that example.
"As far as technique, he wants us getting off the ball and reacting. He doesn't want us thinking too much. He doesn't want us thinking about this and that, he wants us to get off and react, be natural and be a football player, make plays, get off the ball and make a decision from there. So, I love it. I love his coaching style and think it's going to help everyone on this d-line."
View photos from the Raiders first padded practice of 2020 Training Camp at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center.
The effort isn't defined exclusively during games, it must be demonstrated during practice in particular. In everything they do, Marinelli wants the defensive line to take pride in not overlooking the fine details that make teams great.
Coach Gruden considers Marinelli an "old school" coach, meaning he isn't afraid to be blunt. There are people who seem to think this isn't the best approach for communicating with players anymore, but Crosby isn't one of them.
"Yeah, first off, Coach Marinelli, the thing I love about him is he keeps it real and he pushes me every day," Crosby said. "That's one thing I want, I don't want — just because I had one good year — I don't want a coach that taps me on the ass being nice and overdo everything, 'Yeah, good job Maxx!' I don't want that. That's not me, that's not my personality. I love the way he coaches, I can't wait for the season to get here because he's getting us better every single day. He's pushing us to the limits."
Since Gruden became the head coach, he's slowly started prying coaches away from the Dallas Cowboys, such as special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and now Marinelli. Gruden's chess moves were made with the intent of luring players away from Jerry Jones' club, like defensive tackle Maliek Collins, who explicitly listed Marinelli as a major reason he decided to join the Silver and Black.
"He's going to make sure you're the same guy every day," Collins said on Upon Further Review. "You can't be All-Pro one day and barely making the roster the next day. So, he's going to make sure you're the same guy, that you're consistent every day — that's not only demanding on us, but that's demanding on him. He has to make sure that he's the same guy, that he's the best leader for this group of men that we have. I respect the hell out of Coach Rod Marinelli, he's one of the main reasons I'm here too."
Marinelli has earned the respect of his players and peers because he respects the game, and the passion that he demonstrates daily. Gruden has successfully recruited Marinelli twice in his career now and even though the defensive mind is relatively new to the Silver and Black, Gruden says he's already seeing the fruits of his labor.
"I think Rod Marinelli has helped all of our defensive line in terms of the details and the effort, and the preparation is unique."