How Gruden is turning Carr into Gradkowski

Watching the 2018 Oakland Raiders as a long time Tampa Bay fan is a strange thing indeed. Now, cards on the table, I’m no fan of Jon Gruden. After winning Superbowl 37, Gruden exclaimed to a waiting Tampa crowd ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet Tampa’. Boy was he right. The offensive genius trotted out team after team who’s offense ranked in the bottom 10 offenses 4 years out of 7. The guru who’s offense was so complex that he had to get over the hill veteran after over the hill veteran to run his complex scheme. The same complex scheme that had the Z receiver motion, then the TE motion, then the Y receiver motion…all so the running back can run up the guy into the back of his lineman for 2 yards. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of Jon Gruden.

However I have attempted to watch the Oakland Raiders with an open mind this season. Perhaps what people say is right, maybe Gruden has picked up a lot of new ideas from his years in the broadcast booth. Perhaps the days of “Spider Y 2 Banana” were over. Unfortunately Raider fans, what I saw when I watched the Raiders seemed awfully familiar. The Buccaneers circa 2007 look super similar to the 2018 Raiders, but without the vast roster cutting that the Raiders have gone through this season. The most disturbing thing of all was how similar Derek Carr looked to Bruce Gradkowski in that season.

Bruce Gradkowski was drafted by the Buccaneers in 2006 in the sixth round. After Chris Simms ruptured his spleen in Week 5 of the 2006 season, Gradkowski was thrust into the lineup. Gradkowski was a quarterback of limited arm and the majority of his throws were completed within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. His poor arm hampered the Buccaneers on their way to a 4-12 record. Gradkowski made the most of his limited arm and had a 10 year career starting 20 games. The disturbing thing about the comparison to Derek Carr is the difference in pedigree and history in the league.

Prior to this season Derek Carr was perceived as one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. During the 2016 season the Oakland Raiders were a Derek Carr broken leg away from a true Superbowl run. I like to try and back up what I say with some stats and the ‘next generation’ stats showing where Derek Carr completes his passes has been very helpful in illustrating this point.

During the 2018 season the number of down field completions that that Carr has has reduced almost every single game. In weeks 11 and 12 Carr threw for under 200 yards in each game. Looking at the next generation stats during these two games he only had 3 completions over 10 yards. These stats have backed up what I’ve seen watching the Raiders over the past couple of weeks. The Raiders offense is conservative to a fault, almost married to west coast concepts that haven’t really evolved. The good modern offenses are doing all sorts of innovative things that build upon the things that Bill Walsh installed that watching the Raiders seems like watching a relic of an offense…like from 2006 or something.

I’d have loved to have found some of the next gen stats for Bruce Gradkowskis run in Tampa, however those stats were not available. You’ll have to trust my memory of what Bruce Gradkowski was like in the Pewter and Red. Also its not definite that this regression from Derek Carr is simply Grudens doing. However we’ve seen some on field animosity between the two on the field already this season. I’m also not a fan of Jon Gruden, my knowledge of play design and offensive strategy has increased significantly since 2006, mostly the difference between playing in the British universities league and coaching in the British universities league, so take what I’m saying with a pinch of salt Raiders fans.

However, the Raiders look awfully familiar to me.