KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jon Gruden's first season back with the Raiders didn't go so well. The past and present Raiders head coach won just four games in 2018, falling far below lofty expectations held for the team this summer.
His decisions to trade edge rusher Khalil Mack and then wide receiver Amari Cooper weren't received well. He took tons of flak for a clear decision to tear the team down and rebuild it from scratch, especially with precious little time to win in the East Bay before moving to Las Vegas in 2020.
The Raiders weren't very good. They weren't even serviceable very often. Sunday's 35-3 loss to the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs was the most lopsided of the season, one Gruden surely wasn't proud to be part of.
Even after such disappointment, Gruden praised his team's effort and identified some smart play and glimmers of hope toward a brighter future.
He also said the he loved the experience being out of the broadcast booth and back with the Silver and Black, despite all the frustrations and flak that came during a disappointing campaign.
"I love it," Gruden said in his postgame press conference. "That's all I will say, and it is a great responsibility. I am sure I have a lot of critics out there, but I am really excited to stick my shovel in the ground and keep digging."
Significant roster turnover is coming this offseason, with the salary cap space and high draft picks required to upgrade the roster fast. Assuming, of course, that Gruden and staff can make the right personnel decisions.
Gruden believes those who will remain Raiders are in position to help the team improve quickly.
"We have a lot of work to do," Gruden said. "I really like this football team. I like the way we finished. I know today was not a good note, but we have a great group of guys that laid quite a foundation I think we can build on. I am excited about that."