Hard Knocks Blog; Week 3, Oakland Raiders 2019

Again, the most impressive thing about this episode is the environment Jon Gruden is creating.

Gruden again expresses his support for Anthony Brown, saying: “I give the guy credit for standing up for what he believes in.” These kind of statements help create team unity. Players know the coach won’t turn on them at the drop of a hat. This translates to they know the coach “has their back” if they make a mistake during a game.

Tight End Darren Waller is featured in this episode. As I have mentioned over the years in these Hard Knock series, sobriety has a certain sound. If you listen closely to Waller, his humility comes through. Sobriety is about humility. When Waller is told his rating for the Madden game is 68, his reply is: “That makes sense.” Waller is honest about his time with the Ravens, about his drug use and lack of effort. He talks about how being honest with himself and others helped him both in his sobriety and him again finding his love for football.

Notice the comments Gruden makes to Waller: “Hell of a catch.” Gruden makes these comments all the time – they help build the confidence of the players.

We get to see Gruden coaching the backup quarterbacks. To Mike Glennon: “Good, good read Mike.” You’re eight feet tall so they can read your eyes and that’s all they are doing is jumping your eyes.” Yes, the interceptions drive Gruden crazy but he does not focus on them. He does not threaten to cut players, he encourages them.

Then we see Gruden with Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson. Olson wants Peterman play in the second quarter in the next preseason game. He and Gruden talk about this and come to an understanding, that Glennon will play before Peterman. There seems to be no hard feelings, simply an agreement.

Then Gruden’s comments to Hunter Renfro: “Hunter, that’s absolutely awesome.” He then says to other players: “Renfro, he’s something – that little guy.” Then: “Hey, Fro that a way to go – that a way to go.” Positive comments like these in front of everyone send a signal. That signal is that when you do something good, the coach will acknowledge it – and do so in front of others. This falls under the old adage “Praise in public and criticize in private.”

There are six tight ends vying for four spots on the roster. Notice how the tight ends work together and encourage each other, both in practice and in the preseason game.

In the preseason game starting quarterback Derek Carr and other starters encourage and congratulate other players when they come off the field. Again, this is an example of the team unity Gruden is creating.

Gruden to Mike Glennon in the preseason game: “Great play Mike.” “Mike, great drive, that’s a good play.” “I’m telling you if we can run good plays into good looks with good players, we’re gonna get great results.” He does not yell at Glennon, he encourages him.

Gruden to the team after the preseason game: “Just look around we’ve got a lot of good players here.” We’ve got some great players, we’ve got a chance to do something.”

Gruden to the coaches after the preseason game: “I can’t tell you guys enough what a great job you are doing in these two games.”

In a private conversation with Anthony Brown, Brown says to Gruden: “Thanks for supporting me coach, my head, the feet, people after me, you’ve been a constant supporter.”

Even though he does not show up for practice the next day it is General Manager Mike Mayock who gives the “all in – or all out,” comment – not Gruden.

What is extremely important to notice in this third week of Hard Knocks is that there was zero talk of cuts. I can not think of another third week of Hard Knocks where this has happened. There are over thirty players who will be cut in the next two weeks, and we hear zero talk about this. All the players and coaches know this is coming, yet we hear no threats – simply encouragement to improve.

The focus this whole series is about “raising the bar.” There are no put downs, no personal attacks, simply a focus on getting better.

When I watch the preseason games I hear the commentators talk about how young this team is, how horrible the defense was last year, and many such comments.

This team will be very good, perhaps not till next year, but very soon.

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