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Jon Gruden passes blame for not taking Derwin James in draft


Jon Gruden badly wanted to draft Florida State safety Derwin James in April.

When James was available at the 15th pick in the draft, the Oakland Raiders selected UCLA left tackle Kolton Miller instead. James went to the Los Angeles Chargers two picks later.

Blame the guys who drafted before he got there

Why didn’t the Raiders make Gruden’s desired selection in his first draft back with the team?

Because the other guys messed things up before he got there.

Gruden told reporters on Wednesday that the reason the Raiders didn’t select James was because the team spent a second-round pick on safety Obi Melifonwu in 2017 and a first-round pick on safety Karl Joseph in 2016.

Gruden: ‘We wanted to take Derwin James’

“We wanted to take Derwin James. Everybody wanted Derwin James,” Gruden said, per the Athletic. “We had unfortunately drafted a safety in the first round two years ago, and we drafted another safety in the second round [in 2017] … “He’s a dynamite young player, and he’ll be one of the building blocks in L.A. for a long time for the Chargers.”

Gruden then went to his go-to move of talking like an old fuddy-duddy, touting James as an “old-school player” who “can play with high-top cleats like they used to and leather helmets.”

It must be Reggie McKenzie’s fault

This is all, of course, another veiled shot at general manager Reggie McKenzie, who was in charge when those past safety picks were made. It took all of three games for reports to surface that there was a rift between Gruden and McKenzie in their approach to team building.

Now that James is showing flashes of his pre-draft billing, Gruden wants everyone to know that he wanted to take the FSU prodigy.

James off to great NFL start with Chargers

James, a surefire top-10 prospect before a knee injury at FSU caused his stock to drop, drew comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro Eric Berry in college. Now that he’s logged 20 tackles, three sacks, six passes defended and an interception through four games, James looks like the real deal. And Gruden wants you to know that he knew that.

But he still passed on him. And that’s McKenzie’s fault, of course. Never mind that the Raiders ended up cutting Obi Melifonwu and could have certainly figured out a way to make James work.

More of the same in Oakland

It’s just the next laugh in the comedy show that is the new era of Gruden with the Raiders. An era that’s four games into a 10-year, $100 million contract, a deal that fans of the team are surely sick of hearing about.

It’s too bad for them. Because they’re stuck with it.

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