Saturday, January 06, 2018

Chucky's return: Revisiting the infamous Jon Gruden trade

Mark Davis and Jon Gruden in 2012. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.
With the new year 2018 upon the Raider Nation and the return of prodigal head coach Jon Gruden apparently on the verge of becoming a reality, it seems like the perfect time to kick-start the Raiders Research Project yet again, with a new version of the Gruden trade article.

When the Raiders Research Project was in its previous iteration several years ago, its most popular article was a running tally of the Raiders' benefits from the infamous trade of Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason of 2001-02.

In the wake of the infamous "Tuck Rule" playoff defeat, the Raiders allowed Gruden, the team's head coach from 1998 through 2001, to sign with the Buccaneers, receiving four top draft picks and a reported $8 million in cash as compensation. Ironically, the Raiders — under new coach Bill Callahan, Gruden's offensive coordinator — went on to face Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVIII after the 2002 season, where Gruden's team took advantage of his knowledge of the Oakland systems to rout the Raiders, 48-21.

Even as that game launched Oakland into a downward spiral that would last more than a dozen years, the Raiders continued to reap benefits of the coaching "trade" for years to come. Were those benefits worth the cost, in one of football's brightest coaching minds?

With Gruden reportedly returning to lead the Raiders in this winter of 2017-18, more than 15 years after the trade that exiled him from Oakland, the RRP is pleased to revive this project and show just what the Raiders got in exchange, in addition to more than a decade of asking "what might have been."

Be warned: The Gruden trade shaped the Raiders' future far beyond four draft picks over the next three years. It's a long read!

(Note that, in researching this article, I discovered that I made an error involving one draft pick in the original piece. That has been corrected.)

The initial trade:

The Oakland Raiders allowed Jon Gruden to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be their head coach on Feb. 18, 2002. In exchange, the Raiders received cash and four draft picks. After NFL play determined the draft order for those years, the picks eventually became:
  • Tampa Bay's 1st round pick in 2002 (No. 21 overall);
  • Tampa Bay's 2nd round pick in 2002 (No. 53 overall);
  • Tampa Bay's 1st round pick in 2003 (No. 32 overall);
  • Tampa Bay's 2nd round pick in 2004 (No. 45 overall).
However, the Raiders were not content to sit still and use the allotted selections. As a result, a series of other moves ensued that affected the Raiders for more than a decade.

First, on Draft Day 2002, the Raiders made a series of deals that allowed them to trade up from the 21st overall pick.
  1. They traded that pick, No. 21, with a third-round pick, No. 89 overall, to the Washington Redskins for the No. 18 pick.
  2. They traded the No. 18 pick, with a fifth-round pick, No. 158 overall, to the Atlanta Falcons for the No. 17 pick.
  3. With the No. 17 pick, they selected CB/KR Phillip Buchanon of the University of Miami.
Utilizing one of the popular draft pick value charts often consulted when trades take place, the Raiders' trades were valued as follows:

  1. The Raiders received 900 points (No. 18) for 945 points (No. 21/800 points plus No. 89/145).
  2. The Raiders received 950 points (No. 17) for 928.2 points (No. 18/900 plus No. 158/28.2).

Thus, the Raiders ended up with a 950-point pick (No. 17) for 973.2 points (No. 21/800 plus No. 89/145 plus No. 158/28.2). So, the No. 21 pick, at 800 points, is worth about 82 percent of the price the Raiders paid for Buchanon.

Buchanon played for the Raiders from 2002 to 2004, and was traded to the Houston Texans just before the 2005 NFL Draft. (See below for details on that deal.)

Washington traded the 21st overall pick to New England for the 32nd overall pick, the 96th overall pick in the third round and the 234th overall pick in the seventh round. The Redskins then traded pick No. 96 to the Baltimore Ravens, who traded it to the Denver Broncos. The teams who ended up with the various picks chose as follows:

Atlanta chose RB T.J. Duckett of Michigan State at No. 18 and QB Kurt Kittner of Illinois at No. 89; New England chose TE Daniel Graham of Colorado at No. 21; Washington chose QB Patrick Ramsey of Tulane at No. 32 and DE Greg Scott of Hampton at No. 234; Denver chose DT Dorsett Davis of Mississippi State at No. 96.

Meanwhile, with the 53rd overall pick in 2002, the Raiders stood pat and chosen OT Langston Walker of California. Walker played for the Raiders from 2002 to 2006, then signed with the Buffalo Bills as an unrestricted free agent during the 2006-07 offseason.

However, Walker would return to the Raiders after his release by the Bills, playing for them in 2009 and 2010 before becoming a free agent and going unsigned.

Overall, Walker played seven seasons for the Raiders, about half that time as a starter. So, setting aside the costs of a second contract in free agency, seven-of-nine seasons means the Raiders got approximately 78 percent of Walker's career with the 53rd overall pick in 2002.

On Draft Day 2003, the Raiders chose DE Tyler Brayton of Colorado with the 32nd overall pick, which was the final pick of the first round... as a result of the Buccaneers beating the Raiders in the Super Bowl. Brayton played for the Raiders from 2003 to 2007, starting as a 4-3 defensive end before an abortive conversion to a 3-4 outside linebacker, then signed with the Carolina Panthers as an unrestricted free agent during the 2007-08 offseason.

Brayton would go on to play three years with the Panthers and one with the Indianapolis Colts. So, five-of-nine seasons equates to about 56 percent of Brayton's career in exchange for the 32nd overall pick in 2003.

On Draft Day 2004, the Raiders exercised the final pick from the Gruden trade, choosing C Jake Grove of Virginia Tech at No. 45 overall. Grove spent five injury-plagued years with the Raiders from 2004 to 2008, serving as the starting center when healthy, before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Miami Dolphins in the 2008-09 offseason. (The Raiders, coincidentally, signed the Dolphins' former starting center, Samson Satele, to replace him.)

Grove lasted only a single season in Miami, so the Raiders got about 83 percent of his career for the No. 45 pick in 2004.

While three of the four players chosen with picks acquired in the Gruden trade eventually left the team as unrestricted free agents, the fourth, Buchanon, was himself traded for draft picks. That deal took place just prior to Draft Day 2005.

The Houston Texans sent two picks to the Raiders for the cornerback:
  • Houston's 2nd round pick in 2005 (47th overall);
  • Houston's 3rd round pick in 2005 (78th overall).
The Raiders weren't done dealing during that draft, however.

Oakland used the No. 47 pick as part of another series of trades that saw the team move up in the draft not once, but twice.
  1. The Raiders traded veteran TE Doug Jolley, the No. 47 pick and two sixth-round picks, Nos. 182 and 185 overall, to the New York Jets for a first-round pick, No. 26 overall, and a seventh-round pick, No. 230 overall.
  2. The Raiders traded the No. 26 pick with a fourth-round pick, No. 105 overall, to the Seattle Seahawks for the No. 23 pick.
  3. The Raiders traded the No. 230 overall pick, along with a fifth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, to New England for a sixth-round pick, No. 175 overall. The fifth-rounder in 2006 wound up being the No. 136 overall choice.
It is a little harder to determine the value of these trades, given Jolley's status as an experienced NFL player. Jolley was the No. 55 pick in his draft year, worth 350 points, had played three seasons before the trade and played two after it. But given the approximate value of the other picks, he could be seen as making up the difference. Thus, the trade-up could be valued as follows:
  1. The Raiders received approximately 701 points (No. 26/700 plus No. 230/1) for Jolley and 466 points (No. 47/430 plus No. 182/18.6 and No. 185/17.4). That makes Jolley worth about 235 points, or about two-thirds the value of his draft slot, 60 percent of the way through his career. Seems reasonable.
  2. The Raiders received approximately 760 points (No. 23) for 784 points (No. 26/700 and No. 105/84).
  3. The Raiders also got about 21.4 points (No. 175) for 39 points (No. 136-06/38 and No. 230/1).
With the No. 23 pick, the Raiders selected CB Fabian Washington of Nebraska. Washington, infamously chosen ahead of local California QB Aaron Rodgers, would play for the Raiders from 2005 to 2007. He was traded to the Baltimore Ravens on Draft Day 2008 for picks. Washington played three seasons for the Ravens, meaning the No. 23 pick was worth 50 percent of his career. (See below for that deal.)

With the No. 175 pick, the Raiders selected DT Anttaj Hawthorne of Wisconsin. Hawthorne, a once-heralded prospect whose stock was hurt by a failed drug test, spent two seasons with the team as a backup on the defensive line, the sum total of his NFL career. That makes the No. 175 pick worth 100 percent of his NFL career.

So, if the No. 47 pick is worth 430 points, that puts it at about 55 percent of the value of the No. 23 and No. 175 overall picks, where the Raiders finally selected. If those picks break down as a 97/3 percentage split (based on their point values), then, for the pick, the Raiders wound up with 27.5 percent of Washington and 55 percent of Hawthorne.

Unlike with the 47th pick, the team stood pat with the 78th pick and selected LB Kirk Morrison of San Diego State. Morrison played for the Raiders from 2005 to 2009, starting 79 out of 80 possible games at linebacker, before he, too, was traded. (See below on that deal.)

Morrison played a single season for Jacksonville, which acquired him from the Raiders during Draft Weekend 2010, and two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. That means the No. 78 pick in 2005 was worth approximately 63 percent of Morrison's career, plus a portion of what the Raiders acquired for him in trade.

If the 47th pick was worth 430 points in value, and the 78th pick was worth 200 points, the remaining (adjusted) 73 percent of Phillip Buchanon's career fetched the Raiders 630 total points in draft value.

With the various picks that passed through the Raiders in 2005, other NFL teams selected as follows:

The Jets selected K Mike Nugent of Ohio State at No. 47 and RB Cedric Houston of Tennessee at No. 182. The Jets traded pick No. 185 to the Jacksonville Jaguars as part of a package that included pick No. 127 overall, in the fourth round, for pick No. 123 overall, also in the fourth round. Jacksonville chose KR Chad Owens of Hawaii at No. 185. (The Jets chose DB Kerry Rhodes of Louisville at No. 123 and Jacksonville chose RB Alvin Pearman of Virginia at No. 127.) Seattle chose C Chris Spencer of Mississippi at No. 26 and OT Ray Willis of Florida State at No. 105.

New England selected OT Ryan O'Callaghan of California at No. 136 in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Coincidentally, during the 2005 draft, the Raiders traded both linebacker Napoleon Harris and Jolley, who were the team's own first- and second-round draft picks in 2002, and half of the four players the team selected in the first and second rounds that year. (Harris was chosen 23rd overall that year.)

On Draft Day 2008, the Raiders traded Fabian Washington to the Baltimore Ravens for a fourth-round pick, No. 125 overall, which had originally belonged to Jacksonville and was involved in an earlier Draft Day deal between those two teams.

With the 125th pick, the Raiders selected WR Arman Shields of Richmond. Shields spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve and was waived after failing his physical in training camp in 2009. So, for the remaining 50 percent of Washington's career (adjusted to 27 percent, if you factor in the additional Draft Day 2005 costs), the Raiders received 100 percent of Shields' career, such as it was.

Finally, during Draft Weekend 2010, the Raiders traded Morrison, along with the No. 153 overall pick, in the fifth round, to Jacksonville for a fourth-round pick, No. 108 overall.

Based on the trade value chart, the Raiders got 78 points (No. 108) for 30.2 points (No. 153) and the remaining 37 percent of Morrison's career. Depending on how you break that down, that would value Morrison at roughly 48 points if you consider it an even trade, or 74 points, if you consider 37 percent of the value of the No. 78 overall selection, where he was originally chosen.

The Raiders selected WR/KR Jacoby Ford of Clemson with the No. 108 pick. Ford played for the Raiders from 2010 to 2013 (missing the 2012 season on Injured Reserve) before leaving as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Although he bounced around football for a few years, he never played in the NFL again. So, in essence, the Raiders got 100 percent of Ford's career for something like a third of Morrison and a fifth-round pick. Valuing Morrison at 48 points, for an even trade, he would be worth something like 62 percent of the Ford pick.

Jacksonville chose DE Austen Lane of Murray State at No. 153.

With the departure of Ford in the offseason of 2013-14, the Raiders could finally close the books on the Gruden trade, as no player chosen with any pick even tangentially related to the original deal remained on the Oakland roster.

So, in the end, what did the Raiders get for Gruden? In chronological order from their selection:

  1. 27 percent of Phillip Buchanon's 10-year NFL career, from 2002-04; 
  2. 78 percent of Langston Walker's nine-year career, from 2002-06 and 2009-10;
  3. 56 percent of Tyler Brayton's nine-year career, from 2003-07;
  4. 83 percent of Jake Grove's six-year career, from 2004-08;
  5. 27 percent of Fabian Washington's six-year career, from 2005-08;
  6. 63 percent of Kirk Morrison's eight-year career, from 2005-09; 
  7. 55 percent of Anttaj Hawthorne's entire two-year career, from 2005-06; 
  8. 100 percent of Arman Shields' single season on IR, in 2008; and 
  9. 62 percent of Jacoby Ford's four-year career, from 2010-13.
That means nine Raiders, including six full- or part-time starters, were acquired for the head coach. However, none of the players was a real hit in Silver & Black. 

The longest tenure in Oakland belonged to Walker, who ranged between being an undistinguished starter at tackle and begin reduced to blocking kicks on special teams during his seven years spread over two stints with the team.

Arguably, the best of the lot was Morrison, who spent five years as a starting linebacker on a series of losing teams and was nothing more than a backup after he left Oakland. 

The longest overall career belonged to the highest pick, Buchanon, who started as both a corner and kick returner, but seemed to make one bad play for every good one. As Tim Brown once said, "Phillip giveth, and Phillip taketh away." But even he proved an undistinguished journeyman, for all his big-play potential. 

Other semi-long-term starters included Grove and Brayton, both of whom struggled during their stints as starters (Grove with injuries, Brayton with position changes). It was much the same with Washington, but for less time. 

Ford had a few highlights as a receiver and kick returner, but speed and potential never amounted to much production. Hawthorne and particularly Shields were mere footnotes for the media guide.

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