He couldn’t hide his excitement at his introductory news conference in January because of one reason alone:
“There is unfinished business,” he said.
How could he forget? His last Raiders game came in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game against the New England Patriots in the postseason. Gruden was later traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for draft picks.
Seventeen years later, Gruden is back and he’s ready to go.
“I’m just as excited and get the butterflies you know,” Gruden said. “It’s the same way every year. Especially opening day, it’s special. This is really special for me. I know there’s been a lot of news this week with what has happened, but I want to do everything I can to help bring the Raiders back.”
The Raiders open the 2018 season against the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Monday night.
Gruden compiled a 38-26 regular season mark in four seasons with the Raiders and 2-2 in the postseason.
“I’ve really missed the Raiders,” he said. “For my career to end on that night in New England, it still ticks me off. I’m so thrilled to be back here. I hope people understand the emotion inside of me. I feel unfinished business.”
Derek Carr: ditto
That is how Raiders quarterback Derek Carr feels, too. After finishing the 2016 season 12-4 and a berth to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Oakland finished last season 6-10.
Not exactly how Carr envisioned the season going after a 2-0 start.
“Last season, we did not make it to the playoffs,” he said. “That was incredibly disappointing. That fed me more desire to work and improve and win championships. We have unfinished business.”
Making up for Mack
A lot went on leading up to the season-opener. Last weekend, star defensive end Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears.
“I felt like our defensive end can rush the passer as you can see in the preseason,” he said. “We got Bruce Irvin and Frostee Rucker who’s been there before and helped us younger guys to get more sack pressure or whatnot, but other than that I mean we got a well-rounded defensive line.”
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson comes in from the Green Bay Packers and brings added veteran leadership. He sees plenty of potential on defense.
“They’ve brought in a lot of guys to make some changes,” he said. “They have high expectations and have some great players that they have brought over to solidify that defense. They look forward to the challenge.”
For Gruden, it’s all about finishing off strong and leaving a mark he felt that he should have given before he was traded.
“I feel a lot of responsibility to get the Raiders going again,” he said. “It’s been a while since we’ve consistently performed at a high level, and that’s really all I care about. I’m going to do everything I can to get this team right again.”
Of note - Gruden looks to win his third straight season opener as head coach of the Raiders, dating back to his final two seasons in Oakland (2000-01). Those victories came against the Chargers in 2000 at home (9-6) and in 2001 at the Kansas City Chiefs (27-24).