Jon Gruden loss in Raiders return gives debuting coaches 0-7 start

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jon Gruden's return to the NFL sideline as a head coach following nine years in ESPN's Monday Night Football booth left much to be desired for theRaiders, who were booed off the field after the final gun.

The Raiders, in a complete rebuild under Gruden with 31 players on the team's 53-man roster having never spent a day on the team's 53-man roster last season, fell to the Los Angeles Rams33-13on Monday night before an announced crowd of 53,857 at the Oakland Coliseum.

As such, all seven coaches making their debuts on kickoff weekend lost, with Gruden joining theNew York Giants' Pat Shurmur, theChicago Bears' Matt Nagy, the Arizona Cardinals' Steve Wilks, the Indianapolis Colts' Frank Reich, the Detroit Lions' Matt Patricia and the Tennessee Titans' Mike Vrabel.

"It was a tale of two halves, and obviously we did not take care of the ball and that was a critical part of this football game," Gruden said of the Raiders, who were outscored 23-0 after halftime. "Very disappointing."

Gruden, of course, coached the Raiders from 1998 through 2001 and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008, beating the Raiders in the Super Bowl in 2003.

In his second run as coach of the Raiders, Gruden has reassumed offensive playcalling duties, and his game plan against the favored Rams was simple -- ball possession and power running, combined with some precision passing from Derek Carr.

It worked in the first half.

"Unfortunately," Gruden said, "we could not bottle it and sustain it.

"It's about getting this football team better, and it wasn't good enough tonight."

Even with 10 penalties for 145 yards (more penalty yards than Oakland had in any game last season) in the first half, the Raiders held the ball for 21 minutes, 31 seconds to the Rams' 8:29 and led 13-10 at the break. Carr completed 20 of 24 passes for 199 yards, though he was picked off in the end zone.

And while Rams cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib took away receivers Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, tight end Jared Cook more than picked up the slack.

Cook had six catches for 113 yards in the first half, his third 100-yard receiving game since joining the Raiders in 2017. He had four such games during the first eight years of his career.

Consider: Cook had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in his debut with the Rams in 2013, but he did not reach the 100-yard mark in any of his other 47 games with the Rams.

Cook finished Monday night's performance with a franchise record for a tight end with 180 yards receiving on nine catches, eclipsing Todd Christensen's 173 yards against the San DiegoChargerson Nov. 20, 1986.

"It's a completely different team, it's a better team," Cook said of the Raiders. "The players that we got. The coaches that we got. It's just a better team."

But after looking like 2016 Carr in the first half, the signal-caller regressed into 2017 Carr after halftime. He did not appear comfortable in the pocket against the Rams' fearsome interior pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.The play-action game disappeared and with it any chance of Gruden picking up a victory in his return.

Carr was intercepted three times, including a 50-yard pick-six by Peters late in the game.

"Obviously, I don't think it was a smashing debut, by any sense," Gruden said.

"We expect a lot better out of ourselves, and it goes on me."

A spent Gruden emerged from the locker room and eyed his bodyguard.

"How do we get out of here?" he said, adorned in a black suit and still wearing his black Raiders visor.

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