This has been the best Hard Knocks series I have ever seen. Jon Gruden has created a fantastic environment for players to develop. Too often coaches don’t teach or help build the players self confidence. Many “old school” coaches feel they need to be tough on their players. With these coaches there is little teaching and no real regard for helping the players develop. What we saw this series is Gruden and many of the other coaches help the players develop as better players. One of the most important themes in this series is Gruden and the other coaches helped the players build their self confidence as well as their technique.
Gruden praises Antonio Brown in practice with: “Great job,” “good,” “nice A.B.” With all the issues with Antonio Brown, many coaches easily could have made the situation much worse. Gruden supported Brown throughout the camp.
I can’t recall other coaches doing what Gruden did with his running backs – he was showing film of players on other teams and pointing out how those running backs were good blockers. Here is an example of a coach showing his players exactly what he wants to see from them.
Tight Ends coach Frank Smith does a great job in working with Darren Waller. He is showing Waller exactly what he wants him to do when he is blocking. He is working with Waller to have him use better leverage in his blocking. Again, Smith is showing Waller what he wants to see – instead of yelling when Waller does not do what he should be doing.
Nate Peterman is an excellent example of Gruden’s work this series. One only has to look at how Peterman was preforming at the start of this series and look at how much he improved during training camp. Gruden says that Peterman had lost his self confidence from his previous professional experience. Gruden talks about how Peterman has gotten better and better, is throwing the ball good, making good decisions and is learning the offense. Gruden adds: “I’m proud of the steps he has made in his career – especially with us.” After the preseason game Gruden is quick to praise Peterman: “Hell of a job Nate, hell of a job.”
Gruden states: “ We have some tough cuts to make, we will try to handle it as respectfully as we can.” He adds that the guys who are cut he will try to help them get jobs with other teams- or try to keep them with the Raiders. Again, this series of Hard Knocks we have heard the least amount of talk about cuts, and the fewest threats of being cut. This makes the players feel they belong.
Before the last preseason game Gruden says: “Everyone of you guys is good enough to play for the Raiders – I promise that you’re all good enough to play in this league.” Again, this is totally different from what we have heard every other year. Every other year the coach says something along the lines of ‘you better play great or we will cut you, this is your last chance.’
Gruden always praises players when they come off the field and have done a good job. After Keelan Doss dropped two passes in a row, Gruden tells Doss that he ran two great routes, and he just needs to catch the ball. Gruden then says: “We’re going to come right back to you.” Doss then proceeds to catch about five or six passes in a row. After the game Gruden seeks out Doss and tells Doss he is his biggest fan and this is why he’s tough on him. All these small things Gruden does add up to a huge thing- he is building the players confidence and he is on their side.
When the team is back home Gruden praises all the coaches for the work they have done during training camp: “We developed some young players and that’s a credit to you guys.” “We’re building a foundation of something great.” I totally agree.
As I state every year – I do not follow pro football at all. I do not know how much of a factor having twelve rookies on a team will be during the season. We never now how much injuries will play a role with any team. What is obvious is that Gruden and his staff have created a great team atmosphere. The players and coaches are united in their goals. Eight to ten wins seams reasonable for this team, with perhaps a playoff win or two. This team will win a lot of games over the next few years.