Battle of the Bay? More like Beatdown in the Bay.
The Raiders were used to wipe the floor on Thursday Night Football in what is certain to be the final Battle of the Bay against the San Francisco 49ers. Going into the game, there was actually a legitimate argument to be made that the Raiders should, in fact, win this game. After all, the 49ers (like the Raiders) had just one win to their name and they were starting a third-string quarterback who had never played a single down in the NFL. Derek Carr vs Nick Mullens looked as close to a sure bet as the Raiders would have this year – on paper.
Not only was that narrative blown up, so was the entire Raiders team. The offense never got into gear after the first drive. Offensive linemen Kolton Miller and Kelechi Osemele once again flared up their knee injuries and the rest of the line, sans Rodney Hudson, turned to a sieve. The line was so bad that Carr didn’t even have time to escape the pocket. It literally was collapsing as he would drop back to throw the ball.
On defense, the same glaring mistakes showed up once again. Multiple missed assignments in the run game. Blown coverages in the passing game. A heck of a lot of finger pointing without anything to show for it. And yes, the pass rush was once again non-existent. In fact, the Raiders failed to sack the quarterback despite they themselves giving up seven. And seven is the magic number as the terrible Oakland defense has mustered just seven sacks the entire season.
Most concerning was not the final score of 34-3, but rather, the players appeared to give up early into the game. There have been many deplorable performances that Raider Nation has endured over the last 15 years. Art Shell’s 2006 team had a slew of them. There’s the Monday Night Football opener in 2008 at home to Denver (41-14). Every game with JaMarcus Russell under center in 2009 was a joke. And if we look at the not too recent past, there’s Jamaal Charles and Nick Foles ripping the Raiders to shreds in 2013, and of course the 52-0 drubbing in St. Louis in 2014. Thursday Night’s performance, however, may indeed be the worst and most concerning of all.
Some may say the majority of players are just conserving themselves for 2019 because they most likely will not be Raiders moving forward. But in what other professions in the world do you get paid a (minimum) six-figure salary to mail in your performance because you don’t want to hinder your future job prospects? It’s counterintuitive thinking at its finest.
Gruden has made a number of controversial personnel moves, and I admire his strength to certainly go against what may be conventional thinking with regards to the development of a roster. However, Gruden’s overarching philosophy has appeared to change drastically since he came back in January. Again, that is ok. What is not ok though, is the mixed messages he has consistently sends his players.
How are players supposed to take you seriously when you are telling them a different story week to week? Again, the overarching long-term teardown that Gruden is implementing is bold (at the very least), but does, in my opinion, have merit. The way he has gone about it though has been too abrupt, which in turn has created internal discord at a time when unity is paramount.
The team is as divided as they ever have been. Maybe this was Chucky’s plan all along, to divide the team and find out just who exactly wants to be a Raider. Given that the majority of players are either off contract or have easy outs going into 2019, that indeed may have been his plan all along. But such division may lead to proving it a very difficult ask to have players come to play for the silver and black, despite what Gruden may have told Howie Long in a pre-game interview last week.
Maybe Gruden is right, and that players are dying to come and play under the Raider mystique. But right now, if he doesn’t show some signs of progress with this rebuild over the final eight games of the season, there may not be any mystique left.
A Quote to Remember
“When something like that happens, I’d rather have it happen that way than halftime of a game.”
Derek Carr on the retirement of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
A Tweet of Amusement
Made a deal with my wife a few months back that if was if she was still pregnant come #Halloween, she’d dress up as Bob Wylie. She lost… and all of Twitter has now won. #Browns pic.twitter.com/TfuPLtYucu
— Brad Sheffield (@BradSheffield) November 1, 2018
1. The Raiders will lose to the Los Angeles Chargers in convincing fashion. Thursday night was a back-breaker for the Raiders and I don’t see how they recover the rest of the year.
2. One of Eddie Vanderdoes or Justin Ellis will return this week. I don’t think Ellis would make any difference but I’m intrigued to see Vanderdoes in action over the rest of the season. Given that he still has another two seasons after 2018 left on his rookie contract, it’s prudent to evaluate him the rest of tthe 2018 season.
3. Jon Gruden’s patience will be tested this week more than ever. The knives are well and truly out from the Bay Area media and Gruden will be copping heat from all angles during his weekly press conferences. I will be surprised if Gruden doesn’t provide them at least one or two sound bites that will be polarizing to many.
7 Things I Think:
1. Owner Mark Davis has faced intense scrutiny since his father died and he took the helm in 2011. Many critics suggest he is in over his head and should sell the team. Such notions were again swirled up with the big loss to the 49ers. I look at Davis’ track record and I really think he’s done a good job running the team. People said he would need to sell the team to get a new stadium. People said he would never pay big money for a head coach because he couldn’t afford it. People said he would never be able to invest the necessary resources (i.e. money) into the team’s headquarters to provide the organization with facilities that are of an acceptable standard in the NFL. So far, Mark’s actions have contradicted all of these running narratives. He got the new stadium in Las Vegas. He paid mega bucks to get a Super Bowl winning head coach to lead the Raiders. He first spent $40 million to upgrade the current Raider facilities in Alameda and the new headquarters in Henderson, NV will be state of the art. Selling the team would accomplish absolutely nothing and would only be change for the sake of change giving a minority an incorrect belief that success would be around the corner.
2. Gruden is a fierce supporter of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Evaluating Guenther’s performance this season will be a real test of his mettle. The Raiders defense has been, by my assessment, one of the worst units in the history of football. Guenther’s track record in Cincinnati suggests that he knows how to get results on that side of the ball but many will be calling for his head at the end of the season.
3. Releasing Bruce Irvin is the right thing to do for the Raiders. Irvin, by his words and actions, has not wanted to be a Raider. The Raiders were close to trading him at the deadline but the remaining $3.8 million on his deal this season was an obstacle to getting any deal done. Irvin was not a good fit for Guenther’s 4-3 single-gap scheme and given that he initially was asked to be a true impact player, his deficiencies in production were only magnified with each and every game. Despite Irvin being a solid influence on the young players on the D-Line over the off-season, his lack of discipline on the field, along with some obscure public comments to the media during the season, suggested that he was never going to be fit even in the medium term. Irvin is the second captain to have been released from their contract after linebacker Derrick Johnson was cut a few weeks ago.
4. Once again punter Johnny Townsend had a terrible punt of just 23 yards on Thursday night. Gruden actually compared him to former Raiders punter Shane Lechler, which is simply ridiculous. The only logical reason I see Townsend is still on the roster is that Gruden doesn’t want to take heat for failing this early on a fifth-round pick.
5. The firing of former Maryland football head coach DJ Durkin for his responsibility in the death of player Jordan McNair couldn’t have been handled more poorly. It was indefensible to think that Durkin should have kept his job, and to be reinstated and then fired in the space of 24 hours (due to the court of public opinion) was appalling. The way this has been handled is only going to further denigrate the Maryland football program, and make it more difficult for the program to re-establish itself after the tragic loss of life.
6. On ESPN’s Get Up! last week, a reporter made note that strength and conditioning coaches at the NCAA level only need a13-hourr certification course to be qualified. Not only is the low level of certification disturbing, but NONE of those hours discuss player health and safety. I don’t know how this is possible and am of the opinion that these coaches must be re-trained to raise awareness of the dangers the players face both on the field, and in the weight room.
7. Former Cleveland Browns (and Raiders) head coach Hue Jackson once again had to get his two cents worth into the media after being fired last week. His latest public comments once again place blame on others, and in many ways, wipes his hands clean of many of the issues that the Browns faced while he was the head coach. It’s inevitable that his smooth talking ways will get him an offensive coordinator position somewhere, but his opportunity as a head coach at the highest level has well and truly come and gone.