'Continuity' is key to Jon Gruden rebuilding the Raiders

Jon Gruden's program seems to be moving forward, but will there be a breakthrough in Vegas? Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It has been a little more than two years since Jon Gruden was formally reintroduced as the Oakland Raiders' coach, and my, what a difference 736 days make.

Consider: Of the 53 players to compose the Raiders' roster at the end of the 2019 season, only seven of them pre-dated Gruden's arrival, meaning 46 of the 53 were brought in by Gruden.

And with the Raiders improving from 4-12 in Gruden's first year to 7-9 and being alive in the AFC playoff race in the last week of this past season, that would speak to improvement in Year 2 of Chucky 2.0, yes?

Well, with so many games that could have gone either way in 2019, the Raiders could have finished anywhere from 4-12 to 10-6, so 7-9 seems about right. Which means the Raiders, who are moving to Las Vegas after breaking training camp in August, are on the come, no?

"I think we all agree that we're in a better position now than we were a year ago," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said on locker-clean-out day. "A year ago ... we had a lot that we needed to address. We still have some things we need to address, but [we're] definitely [in] a better place."

Hold your rancor that Carr himself is no sure bet to be under center in Sin City. He has an opinion and, well, a point. Because after a great draft with first-time general manager Mike Mayock led to the most immediate impact rookie class in franchise history, it is all about continuity for Gruden going forward.

"Yeah, it's huge," Gruden said. "I mean, 'continuity' is a word that we'd like to live by here, and it's something we have struggled to do, obviously. So, hopefully the young tight ends, the young backs, the offensive line, we're starting to collect some pieces in the secondary and on the defensive edge of our defense. Hopefully those guys can play together for four or five years, and that's when I've seen teams really take off and become competitive, really competitive, when they have some continuity."

Gruden's offense also showed improvement.

From Year 1 to Year 2 of this second Gruden run, the Raiders improved in total offense from No. 23 (336.2 yards per game) to No. 11 (363.7), from the No. 18 passing offense (234.4) to No. 9 (245.4) and from the No. 25 rushing offense (101.8) to No. 13 (118.3). The Raiders' scoring did not make such a marked improvement but trended positively, from No. 28 (290 points) to No. 24 (313 points).

The Raiders' starters were an average age of 26.8 last season, 11th youngest in the NFL. They are also projected to have more than $61.9 million in salary-cap space as well as five draft picks in the top 91, including two first-rounders at No. 12 and No. 19 overall.

Continuity is nice and all, but the Raiders need to add some pieces to make that jump, as they did in going from 7-9 in 2015 to 12-4 in 2016.

"But this one feels better ... because everybody's so young and everybody's so hungry," Carr said. "We really see what could happen.

"But we're definitely ... excited. It's definitely very similar, but I say it's more exciting because we know who's going to be around."

Yeah, about that 12-4 team in 2016. It fell to 6-10 in 2017 and, with Gruden interested in returning to the Raiders for the first time since the Tuck Rule game on Jan. 19, 2002, Jack Del Rio fell on the sword. The thought was that Gruden would simply buff out and shine the roster up.

Instead, Gruden, armed with a 10-year contract worth a reported $100 million, blew the thing up and rebuilt it in the image he saw fit. And here we are.

"It's exciting, man, we're really excited," Gruden said of the immediate future, visions of a $2 billion domed Allegiant Stadium with a clear roof and natural grass just off the Las Vegas Strip surely dancing in his head.

"We are excited to know where we are going to be playing and excited to have a city that is excited about having us, and we can't wait to keep improving our team and we're very fired up. We have some resources ... in the draft, and we think the Las Vegas Raiders, the Raiders, is a great brand for any player to want to play for. And we can't wait to continue building our team. And I know Mayock and his group of guys are excited as well."