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Graney: Raiders’ next coach needs to be the innovative type

Updated October 13, 2021 - 12:22 pm

Here’s the ironic part: Jon Gruden was once one of those up-and-coming coaches. A young gun.

He was hired by the Raiders at age 34 in 1998. He went 16-16 over his first few seasons, then 22-10 the next two, then won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay a year later.

Here’s the obvious part: In now searching for a coach, the Raiders need to again seek out a new-age leader. An innovative one. Someone who keeps the franchise relevant in today’s NFL by how it plays.

Who has a free spirit in regard to setting trends and gaining yards and scoring points.

Who embraces going for it on fourth down more times than not, for goodness sake.

Who isn’t stubborn to a fault about establishing the run.

Who is more teacher than boss, more contemporary than old school, more communicator than hard-and-fast.

Whose playbook isn’t coated in a few inches of dust.

Bisaccia takes over

The Raiders are searching because Gruden on Monday resigned five games into his fourth season and second go-round as the team’s coach. He walked away in the wake of a New York Times report that stated Gruden used misogynistic and anti-gay language in numerous emails during a seven-year period beginning in 2011.

Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia has been named interim head coach.

I’m guessing things will go like this: Bisaccia will handle his current responsibilities while dealing with the media and other head coaching duties while offensive coordinator Greg Olson oversees that side of the ball and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley his unit.

With Bradley, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and offensive line coach Tom Cable, there are three former NFL head coaches on staff. Everyone can break down film.

But the future beyond this season is another matter. Gruden controlled every facet of football operations. He answered only to owner Mark Davis. That’s what 10 years for a reported $100 million gets you. All encompassing power.

How the role of general manager Mike Mayock might now change is anyone’s guess. When someone with the interior clout of Gruden departs, all bets are off when talking who might ultimately stick.

But should Mayock be the one compiling a list of coaching candidates to either make the final decision or merely share them with ownership, he would be smart to think creatively. As in that type of coach.

“It’s the right path to take,” said Mike Pritchard, who played for three NFL teams from 1991-99. “We’re in a league of throwing the ball all over the yard. Things are cyclical. We ran the run-and-shoot when I played and threw the ball all over. Now it’s back to those times.

“It would be the right path for the Raiders and, really, anyone else searching for (a coach) to follow.”

Younger coaches are willing to adapt far more now. They seek a collaborative existence within the locker room. They’re unconventional in a productive way.

It’s not to say the Raiders didn’t produce under Gruden. He was somewhat set in his ways, sure, but it was still an attack that hovered around and sometimes above the league’s Top 10 offenses.

Follow the leaders

Now opportunity exists for it to be even more. For a search to perhaps unearth the next Sean McVay or Matt LaFleur or Kevin Stefanski or so on. Sometimes, however, it’s about more mindset than age. See a few Super Bowl-winning coaches named Andy Reid and Bruce Arians.

“I saw a touchdown in the Dallas-Giants game where they ran the exact same play we used to,” Pritchard said. “It was called Z-90 in the run-and-shoot. So coaches are now calling those same types of things. It’s a return to a different era.”

A more exciting one. A more innovative one.

When in search of their next coach, the Raiders would be smart to follow suit.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM

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