Browns at Raiders: The four keys
- The $100 million man vs. the 2-32-1 guy
Jon Gruden, who launched his head coaching career by going 8-8 with the 1998 Raiders, is back in the saddle after a 10-year absence from the sidelines. Given his $100 million contract, it's a nice saddle.
Hue Jackson, who began his head coaching career by going 8-8 with the 2011 Raiders, was fired after that season. He seemed at the end of his rope in Cleveland after going 1-31 through two years (Tampa Bay fired Gruden after consecutive 9-7 campaigns).
Gruden and Jackson are old friends in an odd meeting. If Jackson wins, his Browns will be 2-1-1, with a chance to send Northeast Ohio off the deep end if a win next Sunday over Baltimore is added. Gruden, 0-3, is being kicked around like a cartoon character.
- Gruden's QB Camp
Gruden was a Browns fan growing up. The way he went through quarterbacks in Tampa Bay stands as his humorous tribute to Cleveland QBs.
As the big Buccaneer from 2002-08, Gruden's starters were Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson, Shaun King, Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski, Tim Rattay, Jeff Garcia and Luke McCown. That's nine guys in seven years (the Browns used 10 in that span, including Garcia, Gradkowski and McCown).
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland's 30th starting QB in 20 seasons, will be a decade-plus fixture if he pans out as a No. 1 overall pick. Gruden is trying hard to like Derek Carr, whose $125 million contract extends through 2022.
Carr is trying to prove his 28-37 career record and 0-7 slump are not reflections of why he fell to No. 36 overall in the 2014 draft. Mayfield aims to prove his stunning relief work against the Jets was merely a glimpse.
- The one who got away (from both teams)
Khalil Mack was sitting there for the Browns in the 2014 draft when they made a crazy trade and wound up with Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel as first-round picks. In 2018, Mack was waiting to be paid by the Raiders, who swapped him out for two future first-round picks.
Passing on Mack is a reason the Browns stumbled into a No. 1 pick that became Myles Garrett, who shows signs of being in Mack's league. While the Browns are getting Emmanuel Ogbah back from injury as a help to Garrett, the post-Mack Raiders are struggling with a front seven that includes ex-Brown Frostee Rucker.
- Air disparity: Youth vs. experience
Mayfield's receiving group has a proven player in Jarvis Landry, but even he is only 25 years old. The other primary targets (Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku) have little meat on their NFL resumes.
Carr's pass-catchers have been around. Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook are 10-year men. Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant are fourth-year pros who have helped Carr rank among NFL leaders with 936 passing yards. The Browns trail their opponents 747-663.
Both teams have young cover men from Ohio State who are recent first-round picks. Oakland's Gareon Conley, from Massillon, has played 152 snaps this season after appearing in just two games in an injury-plagued rookie year. Former Nordonia star Denzel Ward's rookie year in Cleveland could hardly be better, to date.
Steve Doerschuk's prediction
The whole Browns vibe is changing, but beating a decent team that is full of veterans and is in desperate straits, without having won on the road since 2015, is like trying to spit into a black hole.
Raiders 20, Browns 17
Browns-Raiders quick facts
KICKOFF: 4:05 p.m., Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, capacity 56,057.
TV: FOX, Cleveland-Channel 8, Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Megan Olivi.
LINE: Raiders by 3.
WEATHER: Dry, partly sunny, temperatures in the high 60s.
SEASON SO FAR: (Raiders, 0-3) lost to LA Rams 33-13, lost 20-19 at Denver, lost 28-20 at Miami. (Browns, 1-1-1) tied Pittsburgh 21-21, lost 21-18 at New Orleans, beat New York Jets 21-17.
PILOTS: Jon Gruden, 55, was 40-28 as head coach of the Raiders from 1998-2001, winning AFC West titles in the latter two years. ... Hue Jackson, 53, was 24 when he spent the 1989 season with Gruden at Pacific. Jackson was 8-8 as head coach of the Raiders in 2011 before getting fired by Mark Davis, who brought back Gruden this year.
RIGHT-HAND MEN: Raiders Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther held that post in Cincinnati in 2014 and '15 when Hue Jackson was offensive coordinator. Raiders defensive assistant Jim O'Neil was Browns defensive coordinator in 2014 and '15. Coordinator Greg Olsen helps Gruden operate the offense. ... Browns Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley was 2-1 vs. the Raiders in Oakland as head coach of the Chiefs (2008-11), beating Hue Jackson's Raiders 28-0 in '11.
QB vs. QB: Derek Carr, drafted 14 spots after Johnny Manziel in 2014, is 28-37 as an NFL starter. He lost a 23-13 to the Browns in a duel against Brian Hoyer his rookie year. On Sept. 27, 2015, in a 27-20 win at Cleveland, he beat Josh McCown. He ranks 20th in 2018 passer rating at 89.3. ... Baker Mayfield never played in California until this year (Jan. 1, 54-48 double-overtime loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl). His second game in The Golden State marks his first NFL start.
RUNNING MEN: Oakland native Marshawn Lynch is in his second year with the Raiders. At 32, he still has some beast in him, averaging 4.5 yards on 38 carries ( three TDs). Veteran Doug Martin has carried 20 times for 93 yards. ... Carlos Hyde spent four years with San Francisco and will play at Oakland for first time since he was a 2014 rookie.
HANDS TEAM: WRs Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper and TE Jared Cook have taken turns posting 100-yard receiving games in the Raiders' first three outings. Martavis Bryant aims to make it a fourth. As a Steeler in 2015, he had a six-catch, 178-yard game against the Browns. ... Browns WR Jarvis Landry faced Oakland last year as a Dolphin, catching six passes for 32 yards in a 27-24 loss. Landry ranks No. 7 among NFL wideouts with 20 catches in 2018.
SACK TIME: Browns DE Myles Garrett shares the league lead with four sacks. DT Larry Ogunjobi has three sacks. DE Emmanuel Ogbah is returning from an injury. ... Since Carr entered the league in 2014, the Raiders have allowed the fewest sacks. Oakland's starting ends are ex-Brown Frostee Rucker and seventh-year pro Bruce Irvin.
GETTIN' PICKY: Browns CB Denzel Ward has two interceptions for a defense that has five picks and a league-best 11 takeaways. ... Raiders safety Reggie Nelson, a 12th-year pro, led the NFL with eight picks in 2015. Situational corner Leon Hall, a 12th-year pro, has 27 career picks.
NEXT SUNDAY: The Browns host Baltimore; The Raiders go to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.
— Steve Doerschuk