So here we are again. A 7-8 record with one play-out-the-string game remaining in Denver.
The Jon Gruden reboot is 18-29 since 2018 and the Raiders are recipients of the slings and arrows of their own fan base courtesy of Saturday night’s 26-25 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Damon Arnette, the rookie corner who allowed Mack Hollins to run past him on the 34-yard completion from Ryan Fitzpatrick, was sparring with trolls on Twitter. Running back Josh Jacobs, not long after getting a “SCORE THE TOUCHDOWN” response to a piece of Bible scripture, posted a separate tweet which said. “On your job do you do what your boss tells you to do? And if you don’t what happens? Interesting. ”
The message was deleted within minutes of its posting.
If a bad team has a record below .500 and a mediocre one wins half its games, the Raiders aspire to mediocrity with one game to play. Not exactly the sort of slogan Al Davis liked to see on billboards or what Mark Davis had in mind when he engineered a move to a $ 2 billion new home in Las Vegas and brought back Gruden as his head coach.
In the last 18 seasons, the Raiders have had one winning record.
The Raiders, after having went 11-5 in 2002 and winning an AFC championship before losing to Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, crawled into a Black Hole and didn’t emerge until 2016 with a 12-4 record. Then they went back underground, where they remain.
How much of the fault lies with Gruden? For the past three years, almost all of it. Gruden got the credit when they were 6-3, he gets the blame at 7-8. That’s how it works in the NFL And unless Mark Davis suddenly reverses field and tears it all down for yet another Raiders rebuild, Gruden will remain in place and there’s no point in speculating otherwise.
As much as you’d like to see the kind of rebuild engineered by the Dolphins under GM Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores, you’re stuck with Mark Davis, Gruden and Mike Mayock, assuming the general manager doesn’t take the fall for the 2020 draft class struggles.
Sorting through the wreckage of another Raiders season having gone south for the winter. . .
It’s not just the defense
A skeptic would suggest that even if Jacobs had been allowed to score a touchdown just inside of two minutes against the Dolphins, the Raiders would have then given up a touchdown to Fitzpatrick and Co. and lost the game that way.
That’s how bad the Raiders are on defense.
But as epic as the Fitzpatrick-to-Hollins play was, combined with Arden Key’s roughing the passer penalty, when you break it down the Raiders have lost three times where their defense caved in – Nov. 22 to the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes-to -Travis Kelce, Dec. 17 in overtime to the Los Angeles Chargers, and on Saturday night against Miami.
But the Raiders also won two games they could have easily have lost. They needed an officials’ ruling in the end zone on the last play of the game for their first win over the Chargers on Nov. 8, and the infamous Gregg Williams zero blitz which Derek Carr converted into a 46-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III.
The Raiders at 6-3 had a formula for winning despite their historic defensive inadequacy. They ran the ball effectively and kept that defense off the field to a greater degree by staying efficient and converting third downs. It was a part of their DNA in terms of how to be successful with the current roster.
Once that went away after the three-game win streak against Cleveland, the Chargers and the Broncos, the Raiders were a different team. The red zone became the dead zone. As noted by the Associated Press’ Josh Dubow, through 10 weeks the Raiders had 16 touchdowns in 20 goal-to-go possessions. In the last five they are 6-for-15.
At least partially as a result, the defense got worse instead of better and can use an infusion of new ideas in terms of how they coach on that side of the ball. An attitude adjustment is necessary as well.
This quote by safety Johnathan Abram after the 43-6 loss to the Falcons was telling: “We were supposed to come out here this week and kind of take our anger out on the Falcons and I feel like we didn’t do that. I feel like we had a pity party for ourself. ”
Identifying the base
You’ll find the following names on the 2021 Raiders roster as a base for Gruden and Mayock to build around:
Insulted–Wide receivers Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards, tackle Kolton Miller, center Rodney Hudson, tight ends Darren Waller and Foster Moreau, Jacobs and fullback Alec Ingold.
Defense–Defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, linebackers Cory Littleton, and Nick Kwiatkoski, Abram and cornerbacks Arnette and Trayvon Mullen.
That’s 16 names who stick because of their recent draft status or because of contract issues that make it impossible to cut them. Defensive end Carl Nassib may be in that group as well. That doesn’t mean everyone else is jettisoned, only that there are some decisions to make on how to reshape the roster.
The whole “draft and develop” concept, as well as free agency, has eluded the Raiders to a large extent and it has hurt on both sides of the ball.
Carr is more of an asset than a problem
You’ll notice I didn’t list Carr as part of the base, but not because I think he’s on his way out. To the contrary, of all the Raiders’ problems, Carr ranks pretty low on the list. He has a grasp on the offense that will be impossible to duplicate for at least two years and has more than pulled his weight in terms of playing winning football.
If Carr goes anywhere, it won’t be his idea.
“I’m a Raider, bro,” Carr said Saturday night. “I’m going to give this place everything I’ve got all the time. I’m going to encourage this guys all the time and we’re going to be all right. ”
Profootballfocus.com floated a speculative trade scenario the other day in which Carr would be traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick, a third-round pick and a future second-round pick. If Carr really brought back that much, as a business you’d have to consider it, even if this year’s draft class brought very little in terms of an immediate impact.
More likely, Gruden is fine with his partnership at quarterback. Carr is in his corner and Gruden is going to need that going forward if the Raiders hope to ever pull themselves out of the black hole they created for themselves.