While looking at the falling snow, my phone buzzed with a notification. The direct message read, “look at this, man. We are still here”. Within the DM, a tweet from former Oakland Raiders guard/current broadcaster Lincoln Kennedy surfaced. The tweet quoted Kennedy’s opinion on what derailed the Oakland Raiders. Here is the link to the interview.
First, I respect Lincoln Kennedy’s career as a Raider and his contribution to their broadcasts. From all signs, he appears to be an upstanding individual. In fact, we tried to schedule an interview regarding other matters. Kennedy was respectful in his correspondence.
With that said, the thought that we are still discussing the Washington anthem protest on December 28 centers somewhere between comical and annoying. Since the sitting, the Oakland Raiders saw their season go off the rails for a myriad of reasons. None of which are remotely connected to whether they team stood for the anthem or not.
If you take Kennedy at his gut feeling, the distraction began on September 24th. During that four game losing streak:
- Derek Carr missed a game with fractures in his lower back, suffered in Denver. Conspiracy theorists would blame the offensive line for not blocking, wanting Carr injured. If you look at the film, Carr holds the ball for an extended period. Moreover, the sack he endured folded him up in peculiar fashion. A freak accident.
- In the same game, the Raiders lost by five points. If EJ Manuel and Amari Cooper connect, the outcome changes rapidly.
- During the first Charger game, Giorgio Tavecchio missed an extra point. The Chargers escaped Oakland with a one-point victory.
- If the anthem would cast such a large shadow, how did the Raiders climb to 6-6, after wins versus Miami, Denver, and New York?
The Carr Theory
Granted, Derek Carr did not play his 2016 version. He appears less confident than he did last season. One apparent factor is that he suffered a back injury in September. The notion of the offensive line, not blocking for him, and caused disruption feels misguided and wrong. If you look at opponents’ sacks since Washington, one stat jumps out: over the last 11 games, Carr was sacked 12 times in eleven games.
As mentioned, Todd Downing changed to a zone-blocking scheme. As a result, the monster line did not appear as dominant. Yet, according to PFF’s Austin Gayle, the line rated very well during the season. Therefore, where does that distraction hurt the team?
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders fired Ken Norton. Since John Pagano assumed the role, the team forced eight turnovers in five games and the pass rush came alive.
In reality, my only issues with Lincoln Kennedy’s comments were that no tangible evidence exists. It is disappointing to continue discussing a non-issue. More importantly, his words give credibility to those who wholeheartedly believe that exercising your constitutional right somehow affected the course of the Oakland Raiders. Not Downing, drops, lack of interior pass rush, or bad secondary play. The Raiders endured a hellish, nightmare of a season, no conspiracy about it. These are grown men, professionals that know if they do not execute, teams will find players that can. Period.