The Raiders continue to claim they’re handling the COVID-19 protocols well. Despite all evidence to the contrary.
“I’m just going to say, very proud of our organization, how we have handled this entire protocol and this entire process and I’m not going to comment any further than that,” coach Jon Gruden said Friday, via the Associated Press. “I believe we’re on the cutting edge of being the best at servicing players and I’ll leave it at that.”
That’s the second time Gruden has used the term “cutting edge” in relation to the team’s handling of the virus.
“I’m really proud of the guys that I work with here,” Gruden added. “We’ve done a heck of a job. It’s a very difficult process and I stand by what we’re doing here. I believe we’re doing a heck of a job. We can always get better and that’s obvious.”
It’s definitely obvious. Regardless of whatever things the team is doing well, it’s doing (in the estimation of the NFL and the NFL Players Association) just enough things not well to result in multiple and escalating penalties from the league.
From Gruden consistently refusing to wear a mask to an unauthorized person in the locker room to the presence of multiple players at an indoor, mask-free, off-site event that violated local regulations to the latest failure to adhere to protocols in conjunction with the bizarre case of tackle Trent Brown, who has gone from the COVID-19 reserve list to off the list to the hospital after an IV mishap in Cleveland and now back to the COVID-19 reserve list, the Raiders have had more problems and issues than any other NFL team.
On Friday, owner Mark Davis bemoaned the fact that “certain things outside the protocol are the things being focused on, rather than the positive steps we’ve taken as an organization.” Every other team is taking positive steps, however. Based on the repeated punishments imposed on the Raiders, every other team is doing more to fully and completely comply.
It’s unclear why Gruden, who seems to be obsessed with anything and everything associated with winning football games, has failed to get the message through to his players regarding full and complete compliance. Even if Gruden was or still is among those who regard the entire situation as an overblown hoax no worse than the flu and that it will disappear after the election, the NFL has implemented specific rules that must be followed.
Gruden may not believe that offensive pass interference should be a penalty, but if his players commit offensive pass interference they will be penalized. Failure to accept and to comply with rules like offensive pass interference make it harder to win games.
Ditto for the COVID-19 protocols. Failure to comply results in monetary penalties ($800,000 and counting for the team, $250,000 and counting for Gruden), removal of draft capital (so far, a sixth-round pick), and game-day competitive disadvantages, with players missing practices or games due to the league’s protocols after a positive test.
The Raiders have won four of seven games, despite these issues. How much better would their record be if they hadn’t had these various COVID-19 protocol breaches?
More importantly moving forward, how much better will their record become if Gruden sets aside whatever he may feel about the rules and simply insist on full and complete compliance by all of his players, coaches, and staff?
Instead of Raiders fans being mad the the league, the media, and/or the world generally for these sanctions, they should be mad, frankly, at Gruden for allowing them to happen. Nearly every other coach is successfully sending the message of the importance of compliance.
In Las Vegas, Gruden apparently has yet to extend his “knock on wood if you’re with me” routine to the COVID-19 protocols — or he has and they didn’t knock.