By HCR Staff | Oct. 3, 2018
Aggression. It seems to be the theme in HCR’s situational calls each of the last three weeks. Last week, we praised Sean Payton’s aggressive use of personnel on a fourth-and-short. The week before, we were not so hot on Bill Belichick’s gamble on fourth down. Jon Gruden’s aggressive style at the end of the Oakland Raiders’ first possession of overtime Sunday against the Cleveland Browns is HCR’s Situational Call of the Week.
There are times to be aggressive and times to be more conservative. In Gruden’s case, the game wasn’t necessarily on the line when he decided to send out his rookie kicker to attempt a 50-yard field goal on the dirt infield of O.Co Coliseum on the first possession of overtime. Before diving into the decision, there is some context to sift through to better understand why this call was highlighted in a week full of contested decision-making.
The Raiders, off to an 0-3 start in Gruden’s return to the sidelines, were desperate for a win. The team shelled out big money to bring back Gruden, then Gruden unloaded franchise playmaker Khalil Mack. Needless to say, Gruden’s return hasn’t been a celebration just yet. Cleveland, meanwhile, came in fresh off its first victory in 635 days and the Browns were not intent on starting another losing streak.
Being desperate, aggression will sometimes be called for. But this was not the time. Way back in the first quarter, Raiders new kicker Matt McCrane missed a 47-yard field goal attempt. McCrane made two 29-yard tries and a 44-yard try, which may have given Gruden more confidence in his rookie kicker. The attempt in overtime, however, was from 50 yards away and on the infield dirt. To make matters worse, Gruden originally sent out the punt team and then called his final timeout to change course set up for the field goal.
The kick was no good, setting up the Browns with decent field position to go for a game-winning score of their own. As it turned out, the Raiders forced a punt and eventually got in position for McCrane to kick a game-winning 29-yard field goal. Gruden and the Raiders got the win they needed, but that call early in overtime nearly cost them.