Raiders owner Mark Davis confirmed what has been widely suspected: He got Jon Gruden to agree to become the next head coach of the Raiders first, then fired Jack Del Rio, then conducted the required Rooney Rule interviews.
After his press conference yesterday, Davis spoke to a group of Oakland reporters and acknowledged that he first felt like Gruden was serious about returning to the Raiders more than two months ago, when they met in Florida in late October or early November, according to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic.
At that point, the Raiders were 3-5 and Del Rio surely thought he still had time to turn the season around, get the team back to the playoffs and save his job. But Davis was already engaged in serious talks about bringing in Gruden as Del Rio’s successor. Complicating matters is that Gruden and Del Rio have the same agent. Del Rio can’t feel good about the fact that his agent had another client going behind his back to get his job.
Davis said that the agreement was solidified during a discussion on Christmas Eve. So while Gruden spent the rest of the season claiming during his ESPN work that the deal wasn’t done, it was done.
And Davis said that if Gruden hadn’t agreed to take the Raiders job, Del Rio probably would have remained in Oakland. Which means the job was never really open, and the Rooney Rule interviews of Tee Martin and Bobby Johnson were just a formality because the NFL requires them. Martin and Johnson never had a chance for the job because they were interviewing for a job that Gruden had already been offered and accepted.