Some coaches solicit advice on game management or roster moves. Here in the Bay Area, we mostly need relationship advice. Forget about Gregg Popovich and Mike Holmgren. Our coaches are writing to Dear Abby.
Two Bay Area teams played over the weekend, and both are being scrutinized not so much for their offense or defense, but for levels of offensiveness and defensiveness.
The Warriors lost back-to-back games in Texas on Saturday and Sunday, and while they were missing two All-Stars and shooting like imposters, what everyone is talking about is whether KD still loves Draymond, and can they find harmony again? On Sunday afternoon, a rare Raiders victory was sullied by footage of coach Jon Gruden in a sideline spat with quarterback Derek Carr.
In beating the Arizona Cardinals on a last-second field goal, the Raiders avoided an extremely lurid week. Had they lost, all the the headlines would be some variation of “He Yelled at Me in Front of My Friends: Derek Carr’s Untold Story.”
The Raiders flare-up is a nonstory, of course. Hurt feelings absolutely can hurt sports teams — bring them down, even. But it’s good to remember that the arguments we see during games are rarely the harmful ones. It’s the disagreements that linger — the cold wars and below-the-surface feuds — that can truly divide a locker room. If Draymond Green vs. Kevin Durant were really about who should bring the ball upcourt for a final shot against the Spurs, it would be forgotten by now. The problem was all the other feelings that had been accumulating unspoken.
One good thing about Jon Gruden is that he doesn’t let much go unspoken. Carr is his current quarterback, his current project and often his current vexation, and it’s a minor miracle that none of us saw them sniping before Sunday.
“I don’t have a ‘no yelling’ sign on the sideline,” Gruden said Monday. “Things happen. We get excited down there. I get excited when we get a first down. Get excited when you work on something all week and it doesn’t work out. I get excited when he makes big plays, too. That’s just part of football. I think cameras can catch things sometimes that maybe make things look a little bit peculiar, but that happens.”
This is nothing new for Gruden. In fact, it’s part of what defines him as a coach. He has been yelling at quarterbacks since Jeff George was wearing silver and black, and probably long before that.
In July, Sports Illustrated ran a story about Gruden’s return to Oakland, focusing on the men who won a Super Bowl with him in Tampa Bay. Their views ran the gamut.
“He’s fair,” former defensive end Stylez White said. “He loves you when you’re doing well, and he’s on top of you when you’re not. You’re going to get what you give.”
“The games were easier (than practice),” quarterback Chris Simms offered. “I didn’t have this psycho 5 feet behind me yelling at me all the time.”
Maybe retired wide receiver Joey Galloway said it best: “It happens in a lot of locker rooms, but maybe the gap was wider between guys who liked him and guys who didn’t.”
And what about Derek Carr? How is he handling the public rebuke? Will it make him better or worse?