Raiders reportedly break bank bringing Jon Gruden back to coaching

The Oakland Raiders responded to a disappointing 2017 season by looking to the franchise’s past to find answers, no matter the cost. Oakland introduced Jon Gruden on Tuesday for his second stint as Raiders head coach, 16 years after he was traded away. Oakland’s interest in Gruden was rumoured for months, and it reportedly took a hefty sum of money to lure him away from his long-standing gig as a commentator on Monday Night Football.

Gruden spent the last nine years in the broadcast booth and appeared comfortable there, which is likely why the contract that brought him back into coaching is reported to be worth a record $100 million over 10 years. In terms of annual salary, that puts Gruden ahead of other highly paid NFL coaches like Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots ($7.5 million) or Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins ($7 million). Raiders owner Al Davis said Tuesday that he had been trying to woo Gruden back to coaching since 2011, coming close to a deal on several occassions.

Gruden’s previous tenure with Oakland ended in a blockbuster trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2001 season. The Raiders received multiple first-round picks in the deal, but Gruden would have the last laugh a year later when he coached Tampa Bay to victory over Oakland in the Super Bowl. Gruden guided the Buccaneers back to the playoffs two more times but failed to win another postseason game before he was fired in January 2009, while the Raiders took 13 years to regroup from that loss and secure another playoff berth.

As a former quarterback, offense has always been Gruden’s strength, and he will be tasked with revamping a Raiders offense that sagged to 23rd in the league in terms of points scored last season. Oakland already has a few pieces in place for Gruden, such as starting quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper, but Gruden will need to figure out why the Raiders went from being one of the AFC’s best offenses in 2016 to such a middling one. Similar problems await on defense, where 2016 defensive player of the year Khalil Mack is a lone bright spot.

The upcoming free agency period and the 2018 draft will both be crucial times for Gruden to begin molding Oakland into his style of team. Although Davis said there’s no immediate pressure on Gruden to win big, he still wants to win a Super Bowl before moving the franchise to Las Vegas, which doesn’t leave Gruden with too much time despite the length of his contract. After the fanfare of his introductory press conference and the shock over his salary fade into the background, the only thing that will matter for Gruden and the Raiders will be the results on the field.