Raiders HC Jon Gruden on Darren Waller: 'He's the best player I've ever coached'

Monday Night Football appeared to be on a loop for nearly four quarters as Raiders quarterback Derek Carr targeted star tight end Darren Waller over and over again in the wild-and-wacky 33-27 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Perhaps the cavalcade of targets was a birthday present from Carr to Waller, who turned 29 years old last night?

Seven of Carr's first 10 targets went to the athletic tight end, with just one completion. The combo began to heat up after the first quarter as Waller went for 105 five yards and a TD on 10 catches with a career-high 19 targets.

Waller tied for the most targets in a single game by a Raiders player since 1992 (extent of available target data), per NFL Research, joining Tim Brown (2000), Jerry Rice (2002) and Amari Cooper (2017). Among tight ends, only Jason Witten (22) and Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (21) had more in a single game since 1992.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden's praise overflowed for his tight end following the win.

"We threw it 60 times. If you throw 60 times, you'd probably target him 29," Gruden said, via Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review Journal. "He's the best player I've ever coached, so I'm going to continue to look for him."

Given the Raiders' wild overtime win, which included his club nearly botching an almost certain victory, you can forgive Gruden for his post-game hyperbole. Gruden once coached the likes of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Warren Sapp, Keyshawn Johnson, John Lynch and even Brett Favre as an assistant, among many others. So to put Waller with that group -- let alone on top -- is a statement to the tight end's ability.

"Dang, that's crazy he said that," Waller responded when told of Gruden's praise, via Jimmy Durkin of The Athletic.

While at times Carr seemed to lock in on Waller too long, particularly early, all the attention paid to the dominating tight end opened up the passing game for Bryan Edwards in the fourth quarter and overtime. The offense exploded from there.

It's no surprise Waller was Carr's favorite target. Like Travis Kelce in Kansas City or George Kittle in San Francisco, Waller is a matchup nightmare for defenses. Too big for DBs, too fast for LBs.

While he might not see 19 targets a game, Waller should remain Carr's go-to target. A third-straight 1,000-plus-yard season feels almost a certainty for the TE who turned his life around and became one of the most dominant threats in the NFL.

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