It wasn't without controversy but on Sunday against the Browns, Jon Gruden got his first NFL win in 3,592 days. The new (old) Raiders coach began the season with three-straight losses and with them came questions about whether Gruden was ill-equipped to coach in today's NFL, a decade after he last patrolled the sidelines.
But even before Gruden coached his first game in 2018, he did the unthinkable, trading Khalil Mack, one of the NFL's best players, to the Bears for two first-round picks. Apparently for Gruden, the alternative -- paying Mack like ... one of the NFL's best players -- wasn't worth the cost.
So Mack made his way to Chicago, inked a six-year, $141 million deal, and promptly got down to business of dominating opposing quarterbacks. He entered Sunday's game against the Buccaneers with four sacks, a pick-six, three forced fumble and a pass defended. By late Sunday afternoon, Mack had added another strip sack to the stat sheet.
When apprised of this development just before the Raiders faced the Browns, Gruden told NFL.com's Mike Silver, "Damn -- Khalil Mack had another strip sack? Are you ... kidding me?"
Nope, not kidding, Jon.
Related: Through four games, the Raiders' defense has as many sacks as Mack.
Also worth noting, Gruden is well aware that his defense is desperately missing a pass rusher. Here he is after the Week 1 loss to the Rams:
"When you can run the ball like they ran in the second half, it's very hard to rush the passer," he said at the time. "Obviously, we didn't get to [Jared] Goff enough, and we didn't get to [Todd] Gurley enough. We'll take a good look at the reasons why we didn't."
And here's Gruden after the Raiders' Week 2 loss to the Broncos:
"We gotta do something [about the pass rush], we gotta do something," he said. "We gotta get there. We gotta win some one on ones, maybe call some more blitzes. We gotta figure something out. We will."
And here's Gruden before last week's game against the Dolphins:
"It's hard to find a great one. It's hard to find a good one. It's hard to find one," he lamented. "College football now, they're not really dropping back to pass and throwing footballs anymore. They're throwing laterals and they're throwing bubble screens and they're throwing read options. So you've got to train these guys. It takes a little time to learn how to rush the passer. We've got some guys that are in that process right now."
The Raiders sacked Ryan Tannehill once, didn't force a turnover and lost, 28-20.
The good news is that Oakland finally got in the win column on Sunday. The bad news is that it came against the Browns and required some questionable late-game officiating.
To his credit, Gruden seems to understand that the Raiders still have a long way to go.
"We've got some veteran guys giving us some great leadership and showing us the way, and we've got a lot of rookies playing," he told Silver. "We're gonna put the wheels back on and get this thing rolling, but it's gonna take some work, and I don't want to sit here and tell everyone we've arrived. Because I'm pretty sure that's the last thing anyone wants to hear right now."