Jon Gruden says players call him 'dying to play for the Raiders'

Jon Gruden appears to live in an alternate reality.

Either that, or he truly knows things that the rest of us don’t.

The embattled Oakland Raiders coach who eschews analytics, leans on coaching tactics from decades past and leads one of the most broken locker rooms in the NFL insists that his team remains a prime destination for NFL players.

He says has the phone calls to prove it.

Jon Gruden: Players ‘dying to come play here’

Gruden told Fox Sports ahead of Thursday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers that his phone is blowing up with people wanting to join his team.

“I got a cell phone just like you and everybody else,” Gruden said. “I get a lot of phone calls from people that are dying to come play here. I’m just telling you. They’re dying to play for the Raiders.

“To have salary-cap space and to have a chance to talk to the people that you really want to wear the silver and black – the guys you really want to wear the silver and black and represent this team, that’s exciting.”

Gruden leaning heavily on Raiders lore

While giving a sales pitch that hints at tampering, Gruden lays it on thick with Raiders lore in the clip, from pumping up the “silver and black” to pronouncing the team’s moniker like he’s Chris Berman delivering “NFL Prime Time” highlights in 1993.

“The Ray-duzzz!”

It’s a good trope to lean on. No matter where the Raiders reside, whether Oakland, L.A. or Las Vegas, it’s a brand that retains loyalty and rabid fans.

It’s also about all the franchise has going for it right now. It’s been a long time since the Raiders were truly relevant, and Gruden has torn down any remnants of recent success in short order since arriving this offseason.

See photos from Thursday night's Raiders loss: 

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Oakland Raiders vs. San Francisco 49ers Thursday Night Football
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Oakland Raiders vs. San Francisco 49ers Thursday Night Football
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee (47) tackles Oakland Raiders wide receiver Martavis Bryant (12) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) stands on the sideline next to quarterback AJ McCarron (2) during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert runs toward the end zone to score against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Oakland Raiders nose tackle P.J. Hall (92) tackles San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (22) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) walks off the field with trainers during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden on the sidelines with Oakland Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr, after replacing Carr in the 4th quarter during the NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers on November 1, 2018, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Nick Mullens (4) looks to pass during the NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers on November 1, 2018, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garcon runs toward the end zone to score against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, center, celebrates with running back Raheem Mostert, partially obscured, and linebacker Dekoda Watson (97) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Martavis Bryant (12) celebrates a first down with teammate Oakland Raiders Tight End Jared Cook (87) during the NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers on November 1, 2018, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 01: San Francisco 49ers Fullback Kyle Juszczyk (44) celebrates with fans following the NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers on November 1, 2018, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Gruden can build Raiders in his image before move

He’s going to have his chance to build the team in his image as the team prepares its farewell to California and sets sights on the Nevada desert. A 10-year, $100 million deal assures him of that.

But he’ll need a better pitch than touting the good ol’ silver and black to make the Raiders a true destination. Nobody playing in the NFL now remembers the Raiders’ glory days. Right now, the franchise is associated with losing and dysfunction from the top down.

But the team will have salary cap space. And it has stockpiled draft picks. There will be an opportunity for Gruden to take shots at players “you really want to wear the silver and black.”

It will be Gruden’s chance to prove his critics wrong or go down in flames trying while moving into a shiny new stadium.

Either way, it should be a show worthy of Las Vegas.

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