Jon Gruden has never had a promising Jonathan Marchessault Jersey , young quarterback like Derek Carr to develop in 11 seasons as an NFL head coach.
Carr hasn’t had the opportunity to play for a coach like Gruden, an offensive mastermind known for his maniacal work ethic and attention to detail.
The way those two fare together will determine whether Gruden’s return for a second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders will end up as the resounding success owner Mark Davis hoped for while pining for a reunion the past six years.
”I had a chance to visit with Derek Carr this morning and I said, `Derek, this is an unbelievable opportunity and if you’ll just take advantage of the opportunity, there’s so many great things in store for you, not only professionally but personally,”’ said Rich Gannon, whose career took off after joining Gruden in Oakland in 1999.
”Jon’s excited to work with Derek and Derek’s already a good player but he’s got a chance to be a Hall of Famer and win multiple Super Bowls if he’ll just do the work.”
Carr will be tested and challenged like he hasn’t in his first four seasons. Gruden is famous for arriving at work each day at 3:17 a.m., putting in long hours each week.
He will also ride Carr hard if necessary in order to bring out the best in his game.
”I don’t care how hard Derek worked before, he’s going to have to change his work habits a little bit to fit in,” Gannon said.
Gannon became a star when he joined up with Gruden after 12 seasons as a journeyman in Minnesota, Washington and Kansas City. He became a first-team All-Pro in his second season with Gruden and won the league MVP the year after Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay.
Carr showed he was capable of being a top quarterback when he garnered MVP support in a breakthrough 2016 season. But he took a major step back this past year after signing a $125 million, five-year extension.
He matched his career high with 13 interceptions and recorded his worst totals in yards, touchdown and passer rating since his rookie year in 2014.
”I think there is a huge ceiling in Derek Carr,” Gruden said. ”I think he has proven that. Up to us as a coaching staff to improve around him, get more consistent, and come up with an offense that really allows him to soar into another level.”
Fixing Carr is just one of Gruden’s tasks. Getting receiver Amari Cooper back on track is nearly as important. After beginning his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper took a major step back in 2017. He was plagued by the drops that hurt him as a rookie and only topped the 100-yard mark twice all season while finishing with career lows with 48 catches for 680 yards.
It was a puzzling drop-off for a receiver who entered the year considered one of the top in the game. Hall of Famer Tim Brown said he believes Cooper could be in for a 120-catch season if he listens to Gruden’s advice.
”Even for a guy like me, who was having a pretty good career, he was able to take me to another level, showing me how much better I could be Luca Sbisa Jersey ,” Brown said. ”I thought I was doing pretty good. Sometimes you just have to turn your brain off and buy in. If you can do that great things can happen.”
Even some of the greatest players in the game’s history credit Gruden for some of their success. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice arrived in Oakland in 2001 as the most accomplished receiver in NFL history but appeared to be on the decline after failing to reach 1,000 yards in each of his final two seasons in San Francisco.
But he had a rebirth in Oakland under Gruden, catching 83 passes for 1,139 yards at age 39. He followed that up with 92 catches for 1,211 yards the following season and compared Gruden to his former coach in San Francisco, Bill Walsh.
”Could be your best friend or your worst enemy, that’s going to keep you on your toes,” he said. ”Maybe that was something that the players, they were lacking this year. Sometimes you fall into listening to the talk but you need a coach that’s going to keep you focused. With Jon Gruden, he’s that type of coach.”
While Gruden’s biggest impact is on offense, his leadership and intensity translate to the entire team. Hall of Famer Howie Long has seen just about everything. He played for 13 years, announced for more than two decades and has two sons in the NFL.
So Long knows what players want in a coach.
”They want to be great and they want to be led,” he said. ”They want to believe in the guy in front of the room. I call it the Saran Wrap factor. Players see right through that in the front of the room if you’re not authentic, you’re not genuine, you’re not that way every day. … Jon has that.”
The words that threatened to define Ben Roethlisberger’s season were uttered almost as an afterthought and with more than a hint of frustrated sarcasm.
It just didn’t read that way as it made the rounds on social media, or sound that way during a three-second sound bite played endlessly on a loop.
”Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said in a somber locker room three months ago after throwing five interceptions in a 30-9 loss to Jacksonville .
Roethlisberger didn’t mean it. Call it a visceral reaction to having two of his 55 passes returned the other way for game-deciding touchdowns. Three days later the 35-year-old was back to calling himself one of the ”best in the world.” It wasn’t just idle talk. He followed it up by spending the better part of the next 10 weeks playing like it.
The quarterback who will stride onto the field Sunday for a rematch against the Jaguars in the divisional round of the playoffs has his swagger back. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey jokingly gave credit to the beard Roethlisberger began growing in the aftermath of one of the most forgettable performances of his career. Of course, that’s not the reality. The guys who surround Roethlisberger in the huddle know the swagger never really left.
”Ben is the most talented guy I’ve ever been around,” Heyward-Bey said. ”I’m not talking quarterback. I’m talking about talent. He can do a lot of different things. He believes in his ability and he’s going to show people on Sunday that he believes in himself.”
The player who openly pondered retirement last spring, the one who quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said in November will occasionally uncork a flutter ball while looking very much his age, heads to his 21st career playoff game at the height of his powers. Roethlisberger is averaging 298 yards passing since that forgettable three hours against the NFL’s top defense.
Roethlisberger’s thrown multiple touchdown passes in seven straight games and the Steelers ended the season with a 9-1 sprint, the lone setback a loss to New England on Dec. 17 in which his only mistake came on a poorly executed fake spike that resulted in a game-ending pick.
What’s working? Nearly everything.
Having two of the top skill position players in the league in wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell helps. So does the continued evolution of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant’s immersion into the offense following an ill-advised trade demand.
Yet Pittsburgh’s offense will only go as far over the next month as Roethlisberger can take it. Though he downplayed looking for payback after the Jaguars shut him down in ways that few teams have in recent years Marc-Andre Fleury Jersey , not everyone is buying it.
”I’m sure just as any competitor would, when you go and have a bad outing or a difficult, tough outing against a team, you want that revenge,” Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles said. ”You want to go prove that it was a fluke or whatever it might be. I’m sure that’s probably what he’s thinking.”
Not that Roethlisberger would admit it even if he is. Never one to go into great detail about how he goes about his job, Roethlisberger insists he’s focused simply on playing well. The fact it’s against the Jaguars is coincidental. There is no looking ahead to a potential shot at New England in the AFC title game, or a third Super Bowl that would provide an exclamation point on a potential Hall of Fame career.
”I am not worried about what’s going on up there (with the Patriots),” Roethlisberger said. ”All I can think about and worry about is this defense that we are playing.”
A defense that will likely need to find a way to replicate its October dominance to extend its season. The Steelers have been forced to revisit the loss this week, one that put their journey from that moment to this one in perspective.
”That game for our entire group was kind of a watershed moment,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Thursday. ”We stayed together, but there was a lot of pressure from the outside. A lot of outside factors that could have been divisive in some way for our group, but I take my hat off to the guys. They stuck together. They pulled together tighter. We knew that wasn’t our best football and we knew it probably really wasn’t as bad as it appeared.”
Or, as Roethlisberger can attest, as bad as it sounded afterward. The sound bite was just that, a bite, one that in a way played a role in his resurgence. One that ended with his sixth Pro Bowl selection and a very real shot to become the fourth quarterback in NFL history with three Super Bowl titles.
”He’s confident in his ability and he’s confident in his receivers,” Heyward-Bey said. ”He knows that we’re going to go out there and try and make plays for him. That’s what a quarterback needs. He has to have confidence in his guys.”
Roethlisberger’s confidence in himself was never an issue.
NOTES: CB Artis Burns (hyperextended right knee) did not practice Thursday but is hoping to play Sunday. DE Stephon Tuitt (elbow) also did not practice but plans to play. … LB Ryan Shazier, recovering from spine stabilization surgery, attended practice again in a wheelchair and hung out in the locker room after practice.
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