As Utahns dream of a world where the Oakland Raiders could potentially make a move to Salt Lake City for the 2020 season, there’s only one thing dampening Utah hopefuls’ spirits — Jon Gruden.
According to the Rivals podcast, hosts Jason Buck and Scott Mitchell believe the move from Oakland to SLC could potentially solidify the opportunity for the city to be in consideration for a possible expansion team but are worried about the Raiders’ head coach.
Why bringing the Raiders to Salt Lake City is a win-win
The team has experienced a magnitude of pushback from the city of Oakland following the teams’ decision to move to Las Vegas, including a lawsuit against the Raiders asking the team to help pay off almost $80 million in debt, due to renovations made to the Oakland Alameda Coliseum.
On the list of potential cities are Santa Clara, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Reno — but Buck believes the team needs to evaluate Salt Lake City.
“I think Salt Lake is the absolute perfect spot for them, for a temporary landing spot for one year, I think it’s a perfect deal,” said Jason Buck. “I think they’ll absolutely sell it out because a lot of people come from Wyoming, Boise, all of Utah.”
Utah fans have always been passionate about their sports teams and according to Scott Mitchell, the sports fans in Utah would welcome a team with open arms.
“You go watch the Utah Jazz, a small-market team, that has tremendous, passionate, fans that show up,” Mitchell says. “People here will show up for professional football. I understand Sunday and I also understand sports fans, and they will show up, I guarantee you, they will show up.”
The only drawback — Jon Gruden
Ever since Jon Gruden was introduced as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in January of this year, many NFL fans have been scratching their heads trying to figure out some of the questionable moves he’s made during his tenure.
The first, trading away the team’s best player, in pass-rusher Khalil Mack, to the Chicago Bears in September, left many stunned, including the team’s own quarterback, Derek Carr.
— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) September 1, 2018
Gruden was quick to point out that it wasn’t his “goal” to trade Mack but nonetheless, Mack was gone heading into the season.
#Raiders coach Jon Gruden live on @nflnetwork for first time since the Khalil Mack trade. "It wasn't my goal to trade Khalil when we got here. One of the reasons I'm here is because of him." Says it was a contract standoff. Economics/salary cap factored.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 3, 2018
Gruden also traded away the teams’ best receiver, in Amari Cooper, to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round pick in October and attempted to explain the motives behind the move to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
“Well, he had some good games. He had some good games. We had six games together. I know I said some things. Really you can go back and remember what I said in Indianapolis (that Cooper would be the offense’s centerpiece),” Gruden said.
And that takes us to the latest questionable move, the addition of former Buffalo Bills QB, Nathan Peterman. According to Scott Mitchell, this is just another drawback to the Raiders coming to Salt Lake City.
“He got rid of Khalil Mack and he got rid of Amari Cooper, and guess who he got, Nate Peterman,” said Mitchell. “You could get anybody that’s better. I’m sorry to Nate Peterman’s family but you’re not an NFL quarterback and you’re certainly not Khalil Mack and you’re certainly not Amari Cooper”
In an article written for ESPN in April 2017, Gruden described Peterman as “the draft’s most pro-ready QB” and was incredibly high on his ability to contribute immediately — but that expectation hasn’t played out the way the Gruden predicted and has only further caused NFL fans to question his competency as a head coach.
The challenges ahead
Traditionally, Salt Lake City has always been a questionable place for an NFL team due to the potential cost (the Las Vegas Raiders stadium’s total cost was estimated to be $2.4 billion) and lack of an owner with the required capital.
That hasn’t deterred Buck from taking advantage of the opportunity.
“Salt Lake City needs to kind of put themselves in position for a future expansion to the NFL and you prove that you can fill up some stands and take care of people and people will show up for one season,” Buck says.
The opportunity for the NFL to create a market is definitely there though, says Mitchell.
“You’re not going to get any more fans if you stay in Santa Clara now…but if you come to Utah you have a whole new base of people to draw because people in Utah actually really like the NFL and they’re not particular to a team,” Mitchell says.
If the city’s recent additions can be of any evidence of the passion for more football, maybe the Raiders coming to Salt Lake City for a season is just enough to light a spark on the idea of bringing an NFL team to the state.
Listen to the full segment below:
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