Jon Gruden said he gets a little emotional thinking about the future of the Raiders, but he likes what he sees in the present.
The former Raiders coach and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst was asked during a national conference call Tuesday what he thought about the idea of the franchise residing in Las Vegas.
“The Las Vegas Raiders? I don’t know, man, that’s hard for me to imagine,” Gruden said. “The Oakland Raiders have a real place in my heart. I’d hate to see ’em leave. I love where they are. I love the tradition of the Raiders. I’m tearing up right now thinking about them moving, but I certainly understand their situation and I hope it all works out for ’em.
“If Las Vegas was to acquire the rights to the Oakland Raiders, that would certainly, I think, be interesting.”
Gruden is excited to have the Raiders as part of the Monday Night Schedule on Nov. 21 in Mexico City against the Houston Texans and believes that by then his former team may have established itself as a playoff contender.
“This is the year for them to take a giant step forward,” Gruden said. “I mean, there’s a quarterback transition in Denver, and the Broncos have lost some key players. Kansas City’s had some injuries. I think the slate is pretty clean right now in the AFC West and it’s about time that Oakland backs it up.”
Gruden talked of the Raiders strength in key positions and position groups.
“Derek Carr’s got some weapons. You’ve got to love (Amari) Cooper, you’ve got (Michael) Crabtree. I think (Clive) Walford is coming on,” Gruden said. “Most importantly, they’ve solidified the offensive line. They bring in Hudson, they bring in (Kelechi Osemele), the guard from the Ravens . . . Donald Penn, my old guy from Tampa, this is a salty group.
“They’ll run the rock with (Latavius) Murray, and have Khalil Mack, one of the best closers in the fourth quarter. I even see (Sebastian) Janikowski’s still kicking. Hell, I drafted Janikowski. You can see I get excited talking about the Raiders. This ought to be a good year for ’em.”
Gruden has high regard for Carr, whom he had on his “Jon Gruden’s QB Camp” series in 2014.
“Carr broke all of my cameras,” Gruden said. “We had a little camera, right in the bull’s eye, he hit the bull’s eye three times in a row and we couldn’t film any more of the shoot.”
Gruden said Carr’s passing skills exceed anything he saw out of the 2016 draft, including top pick Jared Goff and No. 2 Carson Wentz.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in this draft that throws like Carr,” Gruden said. “He’s one of those guys that comes down the pike every so often. It’s time, I think, for him to take the next step.”
Sean McDonough, who replaces Mike Tirico as the lead announcer and Gruden’s broadcast partner, said he got a good scouting report from his brother Terry, who is vice president of player personnel for the Arizona Cardinals.
“Oakland is definitely the trendy pick to be a team that will take a big step forward, and I think they will,” McDonough said. “They played Arizona at the beginning of the preseason, I talked to Terry after the game and he just echoed what people have been saying, that Oakland has a lot of talent and he thinks they’re going to have a terrific year.”