The NFL Draft is the world’s largest nonsense bazaar, and more tonnage is shoveled in the final two weeks than in the other 50 combined, so when Ian Rapoport tweeted out the other day that Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock sent all the Raiders’ scouts home and did not expect to recall them before the NFL Draft because they didn’t know which of them to trust, let alone whose judgments among them were valued, the logical first instinct was to look for the check mark that serves as Twitter’s version of “made guys.”
The check was there. This was not trollage.
The next test was to check one’s self for the Raider fandom reaction. If you are a Raider fan, Rapoport would have been declared a liar because he said something uncomplimentary about Old Swords Through The Head. If you aren’t, you laughed because you think Jon Gruden often seems like paranoid nutcase Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny, and the Raiders are the modern version of baseball’s long-and-deservedly-dead St. Louis Browns.
And finally, you asked yourself, “If this is so, how could this be? Does anyone pay attention there, ever? Why hasn’t this operation been replaced by a mini-mart?”
Sending the scouts home before a draft is a nutty thing to do, and the only question to be answered is how many style points the justification provides.
Because the scouts still don’t get what he wants, and he and Mayock are frustrated with them. Gruden’s been in charge for 15 months; if the scouting staff isn’t behaving to his specifications, why doesn’t he replace them or change the scouting department’s mandate? Office organization is not glamorous work, but it could mean the difference between 4-12 and, in the Raiders’ case, 5-11.
Because Gruden thought they’d done a hell of a job and sent them home for some well-earned family time. Gruden doesn’t believe in family time of any kind; you work until you die and then a week after that to finish the paperwork because FOOTBALL.
Because only Gruden and Mayock know the vision. Which of course could not possibly be shared with anyone in the football operations department because genius does not delegate.
Because all the work’s been done. Uhh, no.
Because they can’t trust the scouts to hold their tongues. If that’s the case, and it certainly is possible that a disgruntled scout might have whispered this to Rapoport in some way, then Gruden has wasted 15 months not closing a source of leaks at a very sensitive time of year, which is again a failure of organization.
But then the thing about the draft—the closer the event, the quicker the sidebars melt away. This is the Kyler Murray draft, and the Nick Bosa draft. It is not the Raiders’ scouts draft.
You don’t know what to do with the Raiders under Gruden; they seem to lurch from sporadically inventive to hopelessly shambolic because there is no structure there but the contours of Gruden’s impulse control. Year One was ludicrous, and Year Two, also Year Last in Oakland, promises more of the same.
And it damned well better deliver.
The next chapter comes Thursday, when the Raiders pick fourth and 24th and 27th—or trade down because Gruden is a stockpiler, or up because he thinks he needs Murray. Gruden, twitches and all, will redefine himself in Oakland yet again, one final time perhaps. We will find out what he collected in exchange for the revered Khalil Mack and the suddenly enjoyable Amari Cooper right before he closes down the theatre, and nobody knows what play he intends to stage. Evidently Two Angry Men is a consideration, and neither of them is going to play the Henry Fonda reasonable liberal role. Gruden seems more the Lee J. Cobb type, torn by the inner demons of years gone by, while Mayock is more the studious nerd E.G. Marshall, and that, kids, is how you torture an analogy.
So between now and then, the story of the atomized scouting department is a nice time-killer, but nothing more. Not even the obvious question, “Why did Gruden need so long to figure out he didn’t like his scouts?” stands the test of a week’s time. It broke too early to linger until draft day; some first rounder will have his grammar-school tweets unearthed to reveal a social reprobate in training, or there will be an Instagram video of a World War I gas mask with the finest 420 pouring out the filter, or nine players who should go no later than 11th will go no earlier than 14th and all hell will spring forth. The stupidity of news never ends, and the news of stupidity is our greatest export.
Because of the lousy timing, the scouting story is merely one more footnote in the final year of Chucky At The Bridge, Grudening as only he can, and as only he has. I wish it had broken two days from now so we could wrap ourselves around Gruden defying convention yet again. The draft is almost paralytically dull, it makes no-nothing meat puppets of all draft experts, and I’m not emotionally invested in anyone or any team. I much prefer comedy-driven chaos, and I like a piefight as well as the next 12 to 20 people. I wanted this to be true the day of the draft, not so many days before, and it didn’t even have to be the Raiders. The Cardinals would have done just as well.
And just as poorly.
Ray Ratto’s pre-draft grade on the Raiders is already in, and it’s a strong B-plus: Interesting, potentially brilliant, possibly disastrous and undeniably hilarious.