2018 Coaching Carousel: Oakland Raiders

Ryan Finley

If you ask me, the importance of coaching changes is one of the most overlooked aspects of fantasy football. It’s not that we’re ignorant of coaches and what effect they can have, but rather that we tend to paint with very broad strokes and work in generalities. We operate on assumptions like “the New Orleans Saints have a good passing offense, I want a piece of that” or “I want any player Aaron Rodgers is targeting.”

While these things may be true, all too often they are retrospective analysis – we find out too late that the Los Angeles Rams, for instance, are now a really good offensive team.

In this series, I’ll take a close look at the major coaching changes throughout the league. My goal is to provide a little more context of what to expect out of the new regimes and hopefully help you find some angles to attack in your leagues this off-season.


Raider Nation was pretty excited after 2016, a 12-4 season and their first playoff berth in some time. But then 2017 happened. The Raiders went a very disappointing 6-10 under head coach Jack Del Rio. While some of the teams on we’ve talked about here have serious talent and personnel issues, the Raiders have talent virtually everywhere it matters with an expensive offensive line, top-flight wide receivers and some real talent on defense as well. There is no excuse for last year’s showing, and Jack Del Rio was shown the door, even though he had just signed an extension in February. (Luckily for Del Rio, most coaches contracts are guaranteed, even though players’ contracts rarely are.)

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The Coaches

Some teams have gone with young, hot names. Some have gone with young, not-so-hot-names. But the Raiders went old school with Jon Gruden. His dulcet tones won’t be found on Monday Night Football anymore, but they’ve returned to the sideline by the bay. And what better coach to usher in the Las Vegas Raiders era, right? (Here’s to hoping Gruden makes it to 2020!)

One of the good things about Gruden, when compared to some of the other new coaches, is that, well, he ain’t new. There’s tape. He won a Super Bowl. We have an idea of what he does and likes to do. However, I don’t think that means he will do things exactly the same. It’s been some time since he was on the sideline, and my expectation is that he will have evolved, at least a little.

Still, what we know about Gruden offensively is that he runs a traditional West Coast offense. He likes quick throws and likes to spread the ball around. He’s also often utilized a power running game, which would fit the Raiders offensive line perfectly. Gruden has said before that he loves the modern usage of the no-huddle, so maybe that’s something will see more from his offense this go round.

As for his offensive coordinator, Gruden brought in Greg Olson. Olson has been an OC for a variety of teams in his career: St Louis, Tampa, Jacksonville, and even Oakland. Olson was the OC during Derek Carr’s rookie year in 2014. He spent last year as the quarterbacks coach for the Rams, and Jared Goff had an excellent second year. Perhaps he can help get Carr back on track as well. However, like other OCs of late, Olson will not be calling plays, Gruden will.

Gruden brought in more help for Carr as well – in new QB coach Brian Callahan. Callahan spent the last two years in Detroit helping Matthew Stafford to some of his best work. In some ways, the Raiders have three different coaches who have had great success with quarterbacks in Callahan, Olson, and Gruden himself.

The last coach to note here is new offensive line coach Tom Cable. Cable spent the past few years in Seattle, but the offensive line for the Seahawks has been poor at best. Last year, Seattle was 26th in pass protection and 31st in run blocking. Hopefully, Cable can do better with the very expensive O-line in Oaktown. One other note about Cable is that he is more associated with zone blocking schemes, while the Raiders personnel dictates a more power running attack.

The Players

As I noted above, I see a lot of coaching expertise for the quarterback position. Derek Carr had a bit of a regression last season, with fewer yards, fewer TDs, but more interceptions. Perhaps the new QB triumvirate in Raider Nation can turn him around. I could see trying to buy Carr at a discount.

There have been questions about Marshawn Lynch’s future, with some expecting the Raiders to cut the veteran back. Current indications are that he is sticking around, however. I expect the Raiders’ line to bounce back this year, which could really help Lynch’s value. I don’t know if the other backs currently on the roster will amount to much, but watch what Oakland does at the position in the draft.

Carr wasn’t the only Raiders player to regress in 2017, as Amari Cooper had a very up-and-down year. This is especially unusual because Cooper’s MO is supposed to be reliability and a very high floor. But word has it that Gruden will really focus his attention on getting Cooper the ball, so he may be a good buy if you can get him. Michael Crabtree was the subject of cut rumors much like Lynch, but similar to Lynch it sounds like he will stay in town. Crabtree also had a regression in 2017, but he did still nab eight touchdowns.

Like many teams, tight end is a little dicey. The physically-talented-but-ever-disappointing Jared Cook heads up this sad group, and he’s joined by Clive Walford. I liked Walford coming out, but it just hasn’t happened. The West Coast system will utilize the tight end down the middle of the field, so it could be an area to target. I just don’t love either of these players here.

The Bottom Line

While most of the league has zigged with fairly fresh head coaches, the Raiders zagged with one very old school Jon Gruden. He has shown that he can win the whole thing, but we’ll just have to see if maybe his good years are all in the past.

That being said, I could see Amari Cooper really flourishing in a traditional West Coast style offense. His route running is as good as anyone’s, and a system that relies on him being in the right place at the right time seems like a good fit to me. Buy him at a discount if you can. I’m not as sure about Derek Carr, but perhaps the three new QB gurus in town can turn him around. I’d also like to get Marshawn Lynch if I’m a contender looking for a running back I can depend on, as I don’t think Gruden will leave him wanting for touches.