Las Vegas debuts the very first football game near the backdrop of casinos and lights tonight on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints.
This game was supposed to be the battle of the dueling cities, where a sell-out crowd of excited fans get to see what team could outlast the other into the night on Monday. Unfortunately, the only yells from Vegas may come from the jackpot winners nearby, or perhaps, the new Raiders fans watching from a far, as the game - and likely the entire 2020 season for the Raiders - is set to go without any fans.
Still, the game features a debut. An old team with a new city. The Raiders have their night to show off the newly minted black-and-silver versus the black-and-gold. Not to mention, a meeting between two future Hall of Fame coaches in Jon Gruden and Sean Payton. Both have an abundance of respect for each other. Both have studied each of the other’s patterns and schemes. Payton’s respect for Gruden is undoubtedly high:
“I can recall breaking down Green Bay, breaking down Kansas City and San Francisco, teams that maybe had similar styles and looking for ideas, personnel, grouping wise, formations wise and, look, to this day, we do the same thing” Payton recalled. “Jon’s tape is someone we look at every week. So yeah, I’d say that was the beginning. Definitely.”
This has been over the years. Payton studied various personnel grouping and formations used by Gruden’s philosophy, way back even to the late 90’s.
Gruden’s obsession of perfection is similarly well-documented, especially, the details formulated by his quarterbacks over the years. Ironically, Sean Payton’s creative play-calling rivals the best. And there is no doubt, there is no substitute for his hard work in this field. The NFL (joked by some to stand for “Not For Long”) statement made long ago by Jerry Glanville actually was dedicated to referees to make a point of how fleeting the league can be.
Being a coach in the NFL is a grind all year long, 24 hours a day. There really isn’t much of an offseason anymore. With players working out, getting stronger all the time — coaches are expected to match the intensity.
“He used to say I look like a boxer in the 11th round,” Payton said referring to Gruden. “Bags under my eyes and getting adjusted to the schedule. His intelligence and his work ethic are really impressive and have a lot to do with him being a Super Bowl winning coach and a guy that’s respected by so many.”
The two coaches meet tonight on the national scale. The Saints are obviously the favorite in this game. However, don’t count out “Chucky” and his many tricks up his sleeve. The Raiders also come in at 1-0 with plenty to prove in Gruden’s second year. Being only in Week 2, this game is underrated to be a real shootout. Moreover, the continuous chess match between the two legends is primed for a entertaining night in Vegas.
The odds are stacked against the Raiders making this game close. Drew Brees and company come in as the odds on favorite to be there atop the NFC when the season ends. This game is a nice treat for fans on Monday Night Football. Ironically, the running game may be the key for both teams. Look for both teams make a full attempt to get the running game going. Rushing yards are going to be hard to find but may be the difference.