Oakland Raiders left tackle Donald Penn played for Jon Gruden for three years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In addition to that making Penn ancient by NFL standards, it also gives the veteran tackle a background on Gruden and the situation he’s walking into as the new/old coach of the Raiders. In an appearance on the NFL Network, Penn likened Gruden’s return to the Raiders to that of the NBA team that shares a parking lot at the Oakland Coliseum.
“I’m looking at it like, I joke with people, I look at it like Steve Kerr when he joined the (Golden State) Warriors,” Penn said. “Coach Gruden is coming into a great situation where he has a lot of pieces in place already. He’s not going to have to do too many things but tweak a couple of things here. Me knowing coach Gruden, his mentality, and his excitement and energy he’s going to bring, I don’t think there’s any coach in the NFL that brings that kind of excitement. You guys hear him on Monday night, you see how excited he is for football. So bringing that in, it’s going to trickle down through the building.”
Kerr replaced Mark Jackson as the Warriors head coach in 2014 after a pair of early playoff exits and has led Golden State to the NBA Finals in each of his first three seasons as head coach. The Warriors lead the Western Conference again this season and are well on their way to a fourth straight Finals appearance.
Penn believes the Raiders’ roster and the disappointment of a down season has Oakland poised for a big leap next year. He’s so confident he said he expected to be playing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs next January.
“I told him, I said, ‘Coach, you’re about to walk into a room full of hungry dogs that are hungry, mad and upset,'” Penn said. “We’re mad. We ain’t happy with the way we left last season. I’ve talked to the guys. I talked to Derek [Carr], I’ve talked to [Khalil] Mack. We’re not happy. We had our bar set high and we failed last year. So we know what we did and we have that mentality and we have that hungriness coming in this offseason to get it going and get back on track and coach Gruden is going to walk in to a bunch of hungry dogs.”
The Raiders will have to hope Gruden’s return to town goes better than that of the last coach to be compared to Steve Kerr in the Bay Area.