Jon Gruden on his favorite Raider, biggest needs, Colin Kaepernick and more


Only 78 days have passed since Jon Gruden was introduced as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

He reminded reporters of that often in their hour-plus sitdown in Orlando at the annual league meeting, mostly to note he’ll be able to disseminate far more about his team once he’s actually allowed to talk with players.

Still, Gruden covered a wide variety of subjects on Tuesday morning, from his favorite Raider to the team’s biggest needs to Colin Kaepernick. Here are the highlights:

Clarifying his “throw the game back to 1998” comment from the combine: You guys are having a lot of fun with that. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. I re-signed a blocking tight end that was on the team the last three years. I brought in a fullback, but I also traded our fullback, so I don’t know where we’re taking that 1998 quote. But what we did in 1998 is we brought in a lot of veteran free agents at the beginning that were tough guys, that were leaders of their position, guys like Anthony Newman, Richard Harvey and Elijah Alexander, Eric Allen and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to bring in a work ethic like 1998 and I’m excited about it.

On not wanting instant replay in the NFL: I’d like to eliminate instant replay, honestly. That’d be my No. 1 thing. Let the officials call the game. That’s just my opinion. I try not to play that game of “wish list.” You know what I mean? I think slo-mo replay is the biggest problem with replay. When you’re looking at “is it a catch” or “is it not a catch” at that speed, it’s hard to tell. It really is hard to tell. I think if you threw that slo-mo out, I think you’d get back to common sense. Let the naked eye determine some of these calls. But it always looks like pass interference when you’re going that slow. It always seems to look a little bit more dramatic in slow motion and sometimes it’s not realistic, I don’t think.

On signing most free agents that visited: You come in, you don’t get out, man. The magical powers of recruiting. It’s been tough. Free agency, sometimes you want to go after door No. 1, but you don’t have the resources to do that. We didn’t feel like we needed to bring in three players. We felt like we needed to bring in a lot of players. We had a lot of needs and I think we said that in Indianapolis (at the combine). Our secondary was decimated. Our linebacking corps, we didn’t have any numbers. Two of our defensive linemen were free agents. Got a lot of issues. We tried to bring in a lot of players and our success rate was pretty good when we got ’em in the building.

On Oakland’s biggest remaining needs: We obviously have needs. I’m not gonna sit here and pound the table and say it’s one particular area. Obviously our secondary is an area we’re gonna continue to look at. Offensive line, offensive tackle is gonna be a position that we continue to look at. Wide receiver, we’re not done there. I’ll keep going. Inside pass-rusher on defense is a priority. Just about every position on the team.

On RB Doug Martin: Doug came to us for almost nothing. He’s got Oakland ties, which is important to me, Bay Area ties. He’s a hell of a player if he’s right now. So April 9 we put him in our system, and we see where we can take him. I’ve seen this guy be dominant. I saw him in Oakland, California one day run for about 250 yards. And I know he averaged 2.9 and a lot of the statisticians out there have been on me about that, but what you haven’t seen is all the film and this guy’s a hell of a player. And if we can get him right, it’ll be interesting. But we have a lot to prove, Doug Martin and I, and again it was not a huge contract. He’s obviously, I think, telling the people in the NFL something. He wants another shot and he’s willing to pay a price.

On WR Jordy Nelson: Jordy Nelson comes in here with quite a resume and we just gotta get him acclimated to our system. Hopefully he finds a house where he and his wife and kids are happy. That’s all I’m worried about right now … (Raiders wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett) likes Jordy, obviously. We like Jordy. We’re not playing fantasy football right now. I realize his production fell off, but so did Davante Adams’ and so did Randall Cobb’s and so did the Packer offense when Aaron Rodgers went down. I’m not making excuses for anybody, but like I said, we saw Jordy practice, we saw Jordy play. Edgar Bennett has a lot of confidence in him and so do we.

On memories from QB Camp with Derek Carr: I met him at our quarterback show in Tampa and I remember Frank Caliendo was there. That’s what I remember. We had a fun day. He put on a passing display that very few guys have put on. He was unbelievable. And we have a lot of NFL players that participate in that show and they would come out – they always watch to see who the next quarterback is – and every one of ’em was like, ‘That guy can play.’ I was shocked he wasn’t a first-round pick, but he put on a passing display that was eye-opening for sure.

We put go-pros in the bullseye and we had four verticals, so you put the cameras in the bullseye at the seam area, 18-20 yards deep on the numbers. And you have a free safety in the middle of the field and you tell the quarterback to look off the free safety and throw that ball at that target. And most quarterbacks didn’t even hit the target. He hit the bullseye in the target, smashed my go-pro. Ticked me off. Then he looked the free safety off and smashed the other go-pro and I said, ‘That’s a wrap! That’s a wrap!’ That was the greatest show of all time. I’m surprised we didn’t win an award for that show.

On C Rodney Hudson: When I watch Rodney Hudson cover a forward pass – Hudson’s my favorite Raider right now. Have you ever watched a team throw a pass and the center runs down the field to get a block? That’s why he’s our Pro Bowl center and there’s a lot of good stuff that we’re gonna try to accentuate, a lot of players that got to pick it up.

On Colin Kaepernick: I think there’s a lot of intrigue there. His performance on the field wasn’t very good on tape (mentions Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel not sticking in NFL) Back to Kaepernick, he got beat out by Gabbert to start the season. I think that says something. I am surprised he’s not in camp with somebody, probably will be soon.

On help for Khalil Mack: I think with Mack, it’s obvious we gotta get him signed somehow, but he is a spectacular player. I don’t think he’s scratched the surface yet. I think if we could get a better inside pass rush, a more consistent inside rush, a dominant inside rusher, you’d see the best of this guy. Some of the plays that he’s disrupted that he hasn’t gotten credit for are really exciting for us to think what could happen. So Mario Edwards, if you’re listening out there, if we can get that inside rush going…

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