Dan Hanzus takes questions from you, the readers, in his latest mailbag. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. You have no idea how much this means to me.
Not surprisingly, I got a bunch of Raiders questions this week. There's simply a morbid curiosity around this organization right now. Much of that goes back to, of course, Jon Gruden, who's been a target for schadenfreude-loving football fans from the moment he signed that 10-year, $100 million deal.
((((( WARNING: UNPOPULAR TAKE ALERT )))))
Serious question: Should Jon Gruden be hailed, not scorned, for his decision to gut and rebuild the Raiders? Let's be serious here, the Raiders weren't contending in the AFC -- and that's with or without Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. They have a division rival emerging as a conference superpower in the Chiefs. The Patriots -- the forever beast of the East -- are steamrolling toward 13-3 once again. Then there's all the other good-to-very-good AFC squads like the Ravens, Steelers, Chargers and Jaguars. (OK, maybe the Jags.) In other words, this was not the Raiders' time, it was never going to be the Raiders' time, and if Gruden didn't love the team he inherited (which he clearly did not), why should he be killed for hitting the reset button? It made sense!
Could Gruden have handled some of this with a softer touch? Apparently, there are players inside the building who believe so, but since when did you have to be a warm communicator to be an effective head coach? The Raiders now have FIVE first-round picks in the next two seasons. They're playing for 2020 and beyond, which -- perhaps not coincidentally -- lines up perfectly with their Las Vegas move.
Gruden's playing the long game -- it's strange that so many people think this was obviously the wrong thing to do. I don't.
Scarier than Megyn Kelly on live television. Still, it's hard to hate the deal for the Cowboys. They boxed themselves into a corner when they opted to enter the season with a league-worst wide receiver group. They made a mistake, a potentially season-crippling one, and they decided it was worth paying a premium to address the issue in a wide-open NFC East. I love the deal for the Raiders. I get the deal for the Cowboys. Now Jerry Jones -- and especially Jason Garrett -- have to hope Cooper is more Terrell Owens and less Roy Williams.
One more note here: Could the Cowboys have landed a better wide receiver considering what they gave up? Something I pitched this week on the "Around The NFL Podcast" and I'll do it again here: What if all NFL general managers joined a private, password and two-factor authenticated subreddit that served as an open forum for all league transaction matters, including trades. What if, on Monday morning, Jerry Jones posted a thread on the Super Private GM Subreddit with the headline: "Jerrah here, we'll give up our first-round pick for your best wide receiver. DM me if interested." Gruden would obviously reply with his Cooper offer, but what if, I dunno, Dave Gettleman messaged the Cowboys about Odell Beckham? Maybe Mike Brown doesn't want to pay A.J. Green anymore. Maybe Julio Jones demands to play in a city where he scores touchdowns. The lines of communication must be fully open! My subreddit would ensure teams get the best bang for their buck. I know, it's brilliant and perfect.
More Gruden goodness! Yes, I believe Jay Gruden to be a very solid head coach, and I think he'd be unemployed for about 48 hours if the Redskins decided to part ways with him in January (apparently, this was very close to happening after last season). For the reasons you mentioned, the Washington job is not an easy one, and Gruden has proven himself to be fully capable. The Browns and Jets are two teams who would likely be very interested in Gruden if he ever hit the open market. What, you say the Browns and Jets already have head coaches? Let's talk about that!
I don't know who you think those three head coaches are, but I'm guessing your trio includes Hue Jackson, Vance Joseph and Dirk Koetter. For me, Jackson tops the #HotButt rankings. The Browns might be the new America's Team, but they've sneakily disappointed once again this year. Their record (2-4-1) isn't historically awful like last year, but Cleveland should not be at the bottom of the AFC North ... again. And while Baker Mayfield has had his share of highlight moments during his brief starting tenure, his struggles have mounted of late. All rookies hit peaks and valleys, but it's not as if Browns ownership can point at their No. 1 pick and say, "We can't fire the coach, look what he's doing for the kid!"
Bottom line, the Browns are at Pittsburgh and host the Chiefs and Falcons before their Week 11 bye. If Cleveland doesn't find a way to win one of those games, it could be interim head coach Todd Haley roaming the sidelines come Week 12 in Cincinnati. And if that happens, Hue can't say he didn't have his chance.
I'll include time travel here, because it's my mailbag column. 1969 Joe Namath. Nobody else is even close. We'd get a booth at his Bachelors III nightclub on the Upper East Side and just let the world come to us. And it would. If I had to stick to the modern day, I might pick Bill Belichick just because it'd be fun to see how many beers it'd take before he started passionately ranking his favorite Bon Jovi records.
People aren't happy with the "MNF" team. I'm breaking no news here. The social media drumbeat is getting louder and you know for damn well that ESPN hears it. I highly doubt they'd make in-season changes on the talent end (sorry, Jason Witten critics), but I am beginning to get worried about the fate of the BoogerMobile. I love that thing (what other sports telecast in history has required one of its announcers to wear a seatbelt!) but there's logic to moving Booger McFarland up to the booth in an effort to improve the conversation and chemistry between Booger, Witten and Joe Tessitore.
Yeah, the BoogerMobile is in serious trouble. #StandWithTheBoogerMobile
Until next time ...