After a wildly encouraging 2016 season, the Oakland Raiders fell apart in 2017, posting a 6-10 record that led to the ousting of head coach Jack Del Rio. With that as the backdrop, the team is reportedly set to hire Jon Gruden to right the ship but, according to a report from Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the current ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl champion will have a tall order when he arrives.
In short, the environment in Oakland’s locker room this season was… not ideal.
Sources have characterized a “toxic” environment within team headquarters. Players would offer a headshake about specific happenings, which they discussed only in generalities. One said in late December it’d take “a few beers” to adequately capture the circumstances. “No comment,” another said when asked how Del Rio was dealing with a difficult season. Meanwhile, team leaders such as Carr have identified accountability as being in too short of supply from players.
It isn’t a surprise that an underachieving team would suffer serious issues behind the scenes, but the nature of a “toxic” situation doesn’t paint the prettiest picture for what Gruden will inherit. Of course, some of this could be overstated and could be a direct result of losing but, in the same breath, nothing is guaranteed in terms of a bounce-back season.
Gruden will have a strong roster to work with and it is largely the same group that produced double-digit wins in 2016. Still, the challenge could be sharper than some previously imagined.