That classic dumb guy stuff.
Photo: Jeff Chiu (AP Photo)

One of the most common misunderstandings about Dumb Guys is that they are not capable of doing things. This is false. They can and in fact absolutely love to do complicated-sounding things like scheme and intrigue. They may not do those things well, and will generally do them in arbitrary and ineffective ways. But they will attack the work of scheming and maneuvering and infighting with all the vigor of a dog trying to carry a too-big tree branch through a doorway.

Anyway, you are familiar with Jon Gruden’s work since taking over as supreme generalissimo of the Oakland Raiders last year. During that time, Gruden has not just made obvious Dumb Guy moves like engineering the disastrous Khalil Mack trade and signing Nathan Peterman to a NFL player contract and generally brainlording his hand-picked team of doofuses and scrubs to a 4-12 record. He’s done all those things, but he has also leaned into the intrigue with typical Gruden vigor. Gruden set up his own parallel shadow front office within the team’s own front office and eventually forced the ouster of GM Reggie McKenzie; he maintained his control over the team’s major decisions even after the hiring of new GM Mike Mayock. Man he really has done a lot.

Because the ultimate Dumb Guy goal is absolute power, it might seem like Gruden’s work was done, and he could just lock in on the task of coaching up his personally selected squad of Grinders n’ Guys until they play a stainless, laser-precise, airtight version of the 2007-style NFL football that is still Gruden’s ideal. It is a common Dumb Guy trait to stop assimilating new information at some moment of great personal success; there is no reason to think that Jon Gruden believes the NFL is any different than it was when he won a Super Bowl in it during George W. Bush’s first term.

The problem is that all that intrigue creates its own sort of paranoid gravity. The Dumb Guy believes that the moment he stops scheming is the moment that he becomes vulnerable, and so must throw himself into constant counter-intrigue and intrigue-maintenance and general amphetamized vigilance. And that, according to Ian Rapoport, is where the Raiders stand today, after Mayock and Gruden sent home the team’s entire scouting department because they “don’t know who to trust.”

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More specifically, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken, Gruden and Mayock are locking down the front office for op-sec reasons and plan to “devote final days before next week’s draft to war-room simulation scenarios,” which is exactly how Dumb Guys would refer to the process of writing and then erasing the names of various Clemson dudes on a dry-erase board. Gehlken further reports that Gruden and Mayock are readying themselves for another Dumb Guy special—a good, old-fashioned purge:

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Jon Gruden remains in charge, which means that none of this will ever stop.