NAPA Authentic T.Y. Hilton Jersey , Calif. (AP) Since Jon Gruden last coached in the NFL a decade ago, the league has undergone a youth movement.
Thanks to a collective bargaining agreement that limits salaries for players in their first four years and a more spread out game that places a greater premium on speed, teams have relied more than ever on young players.
Gruden still is showing the same kind of preference for experience that he did when he first took over the Raiders back in 1998, signing 11 players this offseason who are already in their 30s.
”We’ve added a veteran presence,” Gruden said. ”Some people don’t like it, but I like Derrick Johnson, I like Marcus Gilchrist, I like guys that know what the heck is going on.”
That’s the opposite direction most teams have gone since Gruden last coached in Tampa Bay in 2008. The youth movement hit high gear following the 2011 collective bargaining agreement and the average snap weighted age for NFL players fell to 26.46 years last season, according to Football Outsiders, the lowest since the website began tracking that number in 2006.
The average age has been falling gradually each year since 2008, with players about a half-year younger now than they were a decade ago.
But Gruden is bucking that trend, signing players like Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Frostee Rucker and Leon Hall.
”Heck yeah that’s a positive,” tight end Jared Cook said. ”It helps the maturity of this team. When you got young guys, especially nowadays, these young guys just don’t get what the NFL is about. Even something as simple as veteran presence and veteran leadership, they don’t understand that. Veteran respect, they don’t necessarily get that. So Nate Schmidt Jersey , having vets in the locker room and having vets around you that know the role, know how things go and that hold other people accountable … is huge. You can’t buy that anywhere, because vets know how it’s supposed to be done, and they’re going to get it done the right way it’s supposed to be.”
Gruden took a similar tack in his first stint in Oakland, bringing in players like Eric Allen, Jerry Rice, Rich Gannon, Andre Rison, William Thomas, Trace Armstrong and Anthony Newman to help turn the Raiders from a losing team into a playoff participant his final two seasons.
Several of the older players have ties to either defensive coordinator Paul Guenther or special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, giving the coaching staff some proven players who are able to help teach the new systems.
”It’s very important,” Guenther said. ”I always say this, but it’s a player’s game. So when you have guys that really understand the details of everything. Obviously, we haven’t been through a season with some of the guys who were here last year. Some of the things that come up, whether it be in the locker room or in the meeting room. I may say, `Hey, remember when this happened two years ago against Atlanta?’ We recall those things. So it’s very helpful to have guys that are in the infantry line there to help us out.”
The Raiders made an effort to add players like that in every position group on defense with Rucker on the defensive line, Emmanuel Lamur at linebacker, and Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall in the secondary all familiar with Guenther’s defense and able to serve as sounding boards for their teammates.
Rashaan Melvin said he frequently turns to Hall Jimmy Vesey Jersey , who spent nine seasons in Cincinnati when Guenther was a defensive assistant or coordinator.
”Any time we’re putting in a new defensive scheme or whatever it might be, he’s been in the system for a long time,” Melvin said. ”If it’s a nickel position, he knows it. If it’s the corner position, he knows it. So, whatever questions we might have to ask or to ask coach, he’s like another coach for us in the room.”
But as much as the older players were brought in for their knowledge, it won’t matter at all if they still can’t play at a high level. They need to be much more than unofficial coaches on the field.
The next few weeks will show what these veterans still have left. The 33-year-old Nelson, who has already impressed his coaches and teammates, is trying to prove that his dropoff last season had more to do with Aaron Rodgers‘ injury than his advancing age.
”The thing that you hear about that he can’t run anymore, that’s false,” quarterback Derek Carr said. ”I can tell you, he’s one of the fastest skill guys that we have still. He can run. You see that by his route running. If he can win on underneath routes that means DB’s are scared about what he can do over the top. He’s still Jordy Nelson, that’s for sure.”
For Colin Campbell, going from Mike Keenan’s top assistant to head coach of the New York Rangers wasn’t a big move.
”I just had to move 10 feet to another office,” Campbell said.
Logistically it was simple, but in every other way it was an almost-impossible task. Campbell took over the Rangers after they ended a 54-year drought and paraded the Stanley Cup down Broadway because Keenan left in a contract dispute.
It’s a similar situation to the one Todd Reirden is walking into after the Washington Capitals promoted him from associate to head coach to replace Barry Trotz mere weeks after winning the Cup. Reirden is just the fourth new coach in the past 30 years to assume control of a Stanley Cup champion, a unique opportunity that presents problems Campbell, Scotty Bowman and Dave Lewis know well from their experiences.
Lewis succeeded Bowman after being his associate coach with the champion 2002 Detroit Red Wings http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/aaron-jones-jersey , and Bowman stepped in for ”Badger” Bob Johnson after he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Cup in 1991 and had to take a leave of absence to fight cancer. All three had to balance the opportunity of taking over with the expectation of following a Cup-winning coach and the ensuing pressure.
”Besides replacing a legend, to be equal, you have to win the Stanley Cup, so it was a big challenge,” Lewis said. ”I was looking forward to the challenge, actually, of taking over a team, taking over a team that won a Stanley Cup and try to accomplish the same thing. I knew it would be very difficult.”
Or as Campbell pointed out: ”You can only tie. You can’t do better. Tying’s pretty good. You have to win a Cup just tie your performance from a year before.”
No pressure, Todd.
Only Bowman – who already had five Cup rings from the Montreal Canadiens’ 1970s dynasty – pulled it off and repeated. And even that was a different set of circumstances because as director of player development, Bowman only agreed to coach the Penguins until Johnson was able to resume coaching or succumbed to cancer.
”We wanted to have him keep fighting for his life,” Bowman said. ”When he passed away, we had not had a great start that second year. We had the Stanley Cup hangover, and the people that ran the team – the owners and that – they didn’t feel it was a good idea to put a guy in in November, early December. I only agreed to do it until one of those two things happened. But then when he passed away, they didn’t think it was easy for a young guy to come in that didn’t know the team. So I said, `OK I’ll finish the season.’
Reirden is far more like Campbell and Lewis in that he was Trotz’s top assistant and the de-facto candidate to step in when change happened. Campbell and Lewis had plenty of experience and were familiar with players like Reirden, but neither had been an NHL head coach before and had to learn on the fly.
”Being an assistant coach, you communicate differently, you just organize things differently Ryan Getzlaf Jersey ,” Lewis said. ”You can’t do is you can’t change your personality. The players know you as an assistant coach. They know you as a human being and how you react to things at an assistant level. So I guess the biggest adjustment is how to react to things as a head coach. … When you’re a head coach, everything falls on your shoulders.”
For some, that’s a natural fit. Bowman stepped right into the NHL with the expansion St. Louis Blues in 1967-68 and led them to the Cup Final three consecutive years.
Nine rings later, it’s clear the legendary Bowman just had a knack for this thing that helped him win with three different teams.
”When you’re an assistant coach, the thing is you’ve got to put your foot down right from the start,” Bowman said. ”You’re no longer an assistant coach.”
That’s just the beginning of the advice for Reirden, who at 47 has coached in the American Hockey League and spent eight years behind the bench as an assistant with Pittsburgh and Washington. When Trotz resigned and joined the New York Islanders, Reirden was the only candidate to be the Capitals’ coach – and now it’s his time to figure it out.
”It’s a challenge,” Lewis said. ”There’s no easy head-coaching jobs in the National hockey League. He knows the team. He’s been with them when they’ve been successful. He’s been with them when they’ve stumbled and had some failures. Just be yourself is my only advice that I can give.”
Campbell waited out a half-season lockout in 1994-95 and so badly wanted to win his head-coaching debut on banner-raising night – when he only found out after warmups captain Mark Messier would be in the lineup. Knowing a thing about pressure under the New York spotlight, Campbell hopes Reirden doesn’t pile up too much of it on himself.
”There would be pressure on Barry if he came back,” Campbell said. ”Don’t try to be like Barry. They were a goalpost from being down 3-0. They’re a good team, a deep team, but it’s tough to win the Cup. He knows that team, he knows those players. He doesn’t have to change anything. But he’s got to be Todd, not Barry or anybody else. He’s been around long enough. Just don’t put undue pressure on yourself, that’s all, because it’s tough.”
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