“Hard Knocks” Starts This Week. Jon Gruden Isn’t Happy About It.

The combined record of previous teams on the HBO show? 98-109-1

Raiders coach Jon Gruden
Head coach Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders 2018. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
By Evan Bleier / August 5, 2019 6:00 am

Prior to the debut of this year’s season of Hard Knocks, which kicks off tomorrow on HBO, the Oakland Raiders shared a clip of what fans of the show can expect.

“Everybody right now has dreams, don’t they, guys? I said it to the rookies. Everybody in the NFL, ‘I have a dream of making it in the NFL. I got a dream of winning the Super Bowl. I got a dream of being in the Pro Bowl,”‘ Oakland coach Jon Gruden says in the clip. “I’m really not into dreams anymore, OK? I’m into nightmares. You guys with me on that? You’ve got to end somebody’s dream. You gotta take their job. You gotta take their heart. You guys clear about this NFL now?”

It’s fitting that Gruden, who returned to the sideline to coach the Raiders last season after almost a decade working in the Monday Night Football booth, was talking about nightmares in the clip because, for him, having his team featured on Hard Knocks, seems to be one.

Along with Oakland general manager Mike Mayock, Gruden has been “hesitant” to allow HBO’s cameras or members of the show’s 32-member crew into the room when the team is having positional meetings or when “dream-crushing news” is being delivered to a player, according to The San Jose Mercury News.

“We’re on the record as saying the Oakland Raiders did not invite the Hard Knocks cameras in,” Mayock told the paper. “Jon and I are kind of old school and the reason you go to training camp is to get away from all the distractions, get together, bond, learn your assignments, no distractions, no intrusions. Hard Knocks is an intrusion.”

Speaking with InsideHook after a panel event for DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter — an initiative which has pledged to provide access to sports for one million youth athletes over the next five years — Gruden seemed to echo his GM’s sentiments when he was asked if he was happy about having Hard Knocks at training camp in Napa.

“No. I’m not interested in that, but I’m not going to argue about it,” Gruden said. “You know, it wasn’t something we volunteered for, but we’ll be professional about it and hopefully we do a good job for them.”

on Gruden and Mike Mayock
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock at the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl. (Don Juan Moore/Getty)

Visibly annoyed by the mention of the show, Gruden was much more effusive when talking about what he’s seen from offseason acquisition Antonio Brown since the 31-year-old star arrived in Oakland.

“I’ve seen enough to know that he is legit,” Gruden told InsideHook. “He’s got so much energy, not only when the game starts, but behind the scenes. In the weight room, on the practice field, he’s a tempo-setter. You better acknowledge him on every snap because he’s capable of beating any coverage. Double-coverage, single-coverage, rotation-coverage … He can run any route that I can dream up and I have a pretty creative mind.”

According to Gruden, the Raiders, who ranked 18th in the NFL in receiving yards as a team last season with 4,057, will look to get the ball in Brown’s hand as much as possible.

“We’re hoping that we can move him all over the place. That’s what he’s accustomed to,” Gruden said. “We also added Tyrell Williams from the Chargers, who’s a bright up and coming guy. We drafted Hunter Renfrow, who’s got some versatility. But, if you’re going to move Antonio, everybody’s got to move. We’re anxious to begin the process of being multiple and asking him to do a lot of things so teams can’t find him.”

Drafted out of Clemson in the fifth round, Renfrow is part of an Oakland draft class Gruden said he was “thrilled” with.

“It’s the first draft class that Mike [Mayock] and I had a chance to work together on,” Gruden said. “We had a lot of draft picks in the first round, and we like the kind of kids we got: young men that have the right stuff. Great competitors, big upsides and all of them are versatile. So we addressed some needs on the field. We also addressed some needs off the field and got guys that I think will carry the torch to Las Vegas.”

Jon Gruden
Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders at the 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl. (Don Juan Moore/Getty)

But Gruden isn’t looking ahead to the move to Vegas just yet.

“It’s exciting, but I haven’t really thought about it at all,” Gruden said. “I’m focused on the last year and the history of the Oakland Raiders and I’m anxious to get to work. Right now we’ve got a lot of new players in every position, so we’ve got to train our guys and get ready for the Rams who come to practice against us on August 7th.”

Back to Hard Knocks, it is somewhat understandable why Gruden and Mayock don’t want to be involved with the show considering how the 13 squads who have appeared on the show in the past have fared.

Combined, those teams — Bengals (twice), Jets, Falcons, Bucs, Rams, Ravens, Chiefs, Dolphins, Texans Browns, and Cowboys (twice)  — have a combined record of 98-109-1. In the 13 previous seasons of the show, only five teams that appeared have done well enough during the regular season to make the playoffs.

Upset about being on the show or not, Gruden is hoping the Raiders will be the sixth.