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The Gut Check No. 437: Is Oakland's Passing Attack A Contrarian Play? - Footballguys

The Raiders have drawn criticism for their off-season moves. Matt Waldman sees productive contrarian plays from Oakland's passing game.

Raiders owner Mark Davis and his new head coach Jon Gruden are the Dumb and Dumber of the NFL. They have the haircuts, and according to many fantasy analysts that I respect, they've earned the role for their off-season acquisitions:

The likes of Evan Silva, Jeff Radcliffe, Justis Mosqueda, and Sigmund Bloom on Twitter railing on the Raiders for moves that appear as if they are woefully behind the times have compelling points.
 
However, when many of fantasy football's major voices all agree, it's worthwhile to examine the contrarian view. Giving real credence to the opposing viewpoint can lead to embracing successes that most wrote off without consideration or avoiding debacles that most unquestionably embraced. 
 
Conventional wisdom in fantasy football is an oxymoron because once an idea becomes conventional in a competitive arena, it's no longer the safest strategy. Those who excel are the exceptional cases, and you can't be exceptional when you're following the masses. 
 
At this stage of the season, the Raiders offense is shaping up to become the unit where the conventional play is to avoid Oakland's skill players. Because of the dynamics of conventionality and contrarianism in a competitive environment, we should at least take a serious second look at the Raiders' players. 
 
And there are compelling arguments that Oakland's offensive players will be undervalued this year. This week, we'll profile the Raiders' passing game.
 

A short history of Gruden's personnel decisions 

It's a convenient snap-take to examine Gruden's off-season moves and conclude that he's woefully behind the curve of the NFL. A deeper look into Gruden's coaching career reveals a pattern of successful behavior.

Like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and several other successful NFL head coaches, Gruden has his guys — core players who create and enforce a team culture. If core players don't fit the culture, coaches like Gruden will get rid of them early in his tenure and often with great consternation to fans and media. 

The greatest responsibility of a head coach is managing the team. Some take on more everyday responsibility with play calls and game plans, but the most successful head coaches understand that effective management requires a balance of creation, education, implementation, delegation, follow-up, feedback, discipline, and inspiration. 

Acquiring qualified people who fit the culture and can lead others within the scope of their responsibilities is an essential part of strong team-building in any environment. For an NFL team, this support staff includes assistant coaches, trainers, and veteran players — even those who don't make on-field contributions but possess the skills and experience to help teammates grow. 

The West Coast Offense places a lot of demands on a quarterback and his receivers, including the play verbiage and adjustments. The most productive offenses often make the best adjustments to the opposition. As dominant an athlete Randy Moss was in the NFL, his game intelligence was prized just as much. 

Gruden's first year as an offensive coordinator was with the Eagles in 1995, and the roster included 38-year-old wide receiver Art Monk — a consummate possession receiver and future Hall of Famer. Monk only earned 116 yards in 1995 but his presence marks the beginning of a pattern with Gruden's coaching tenure: He wants intelligent veterans who still present physical match-up advantages in the role they've always played or he wants vets who can make a seamless switch to a new receiver role where they can sustain success. 

In 1996, the Eagles acquired 34-year-old Irving Fryar. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots arrived in Philadephia after a three-year stint in Miami with Dan Marino. Always known as a vertical threat, Fryar's yardage totals dipped below 1,000 for the first time in 1995. In Gruden's scheme, Fryar earned consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl, delivering two of his three best seasons during his 17-year career.

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