CARSON, Calif. -- So, what's next?
The feeling around the Oakland Raiders as they foundered a bit earlier in the season and still found themselves at 6-6 and tied for first place was that Jack Del Rio, with his recently inked four-year contract extension, was safe to return in 2018.
Unless ... someone like a Jon Gruden or a Jim Harbaugh whispered in Mark Davis' ear that he was ready to come back to the NFL.
Then the Raiders stumbled to embarrassingly new lows week after week, the offense falling all over itself and Derek Carr, with his $125 million contract, regressing by the snap.
Yet ... despite a 6-10 season in a year that began with Super Bowl dreams, Del Rio wouldn't have been fired unless Davis felt that he has Gruden locked up.
"If [Gruden] is our coach, or if he is not," Carr said, "who knows? We don't know.
"I know [Gruden] and I've known him for a while, but [Del Rio's dismissal] is still pretty fresh."
Because keep in mind, this is not the first time Davis has made a run at Gruden. It's just the most lucrative. Per colleagues Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, an ownership stake in a franchise whose value is about to go up in a big way with the 2020 move to Las Vegas could be part of the allure.
Davis was in no mood to speak after he relieved Del Rio of his duties, his face ashen and his eyes red. In fact, it was similar to the look Davis had in Week 4, after a loss at the Denver Broncos dropped the Raiders' record to 2-2. They would lose four straight before getting back to .500 at 6-6 and then lose four straight again to end the Del Rio era.
Gruden? He has been living the good life as an ESPN Monday Night Football analyst and has not coached in the NFL since 2008.
Transport yourself to the Raiders' past. Can you imagine John Madden coming out of retirement to coach up the Raiders in 1988?
What about Tom Flores skipping that whole Seattle Seahawks misadventure and returning to the Raiders' sidelines in 1997?
Casting a wider net, there's Dick Vermeil, who took 1983 through 1996 off before returning, to the Rams, and winning a Super Bowl in his third season back.
Running back Marshawn Lynch shrugged as he searched for the words.
"It's a business," he said.
Then this from reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack: "I'll keep my thoughts to myself."
Del Rio changed the culture in Oakland. For the better. Then again, so, too, did Tom Cable. And Hue Jackson had the Raiders exciting, at least, in his one year.
This, though, was different.
"I do believe that we have established a solid nucleus," Del Rio said. "I believe that whoever comes in here has a chance to take that nucleus and go to special places. And I'll be pulling for them."
In the Bay Area, fans have compared the possibility of Gruden succeeding Del Rio to the way Steve Kerr elevated the NBA's Golden State Warriors into a goliath, after Mark Jackson set the groundwork.
The Raiders, though, have a short shelf life in the Bay, while the Warriors are set to head to San Francisco by 2020.
What's next? A run on Chucky dolls at Raider Image stores, if Davis has his way.