In the first installment of Simmons Says, I will explore the Warriors parallel and if the pressure to win could envelop the Raiders.
If the Raiders are going to take anything away from Steve Kerr and the Warriors approach, the ruthless factor must play a role. One of the more interesting tendencies from Kerr is to leave his best players in a few possessions longer than an opponent during a blowout. Some opponents do not appreciate this but it is a clear angle Kerr is working with his team, you cannot afford to allow a downed opponent to get back up. For the Raiders last season was filled with missed chances and a coyness surrounding the kill shot moments.
Even Derek Carr’s furious comeback against the Chiefs had moments where the team did not look comfortable closing out a game against a quality opponent. Jon Gruden is going to have to figure out how to change the teams overall mindset in these situations.
Instead, these should be the moments where Carr, Cooper, Mack, and others should feel empowered to elevate their level of play. Each of them has done so here and there but for the Raiders to vault to contender level they will need to confidently execute each time.
What they absolutely cannot do is allow themselves to think they are better than they are. The warriors typically are facing a high enough level of competition that they cannot afford to get cocky. When they have, it has gotten ugly but they are good enough to usually work through their issues and win. The Raiders do not feature four top 10 players at their respective positions. Respect every opponent, fear no team, and remind everyone of the commitment to excellence.
Pressure to Win Now
The pressure for players like Derek Carr and Khalil Mack has generally proven to be a good thing. They are the kinds of players who actively seek the pressure cooker to measure themselves. For players like Jordy Nelson, Bruce Irvin, or Donald Penn do not feel the pressure. Each already accomplished a great deal. These vets validated themselves over many seasons. They will either will retire soon or have a firm grasp of their own abilities and contributions.
The players who will feel the most pressure are the Martavis Bryants, Mario Edwards, and Obi Melifonwus. These players get both the benefit and hardship of a clean slate. In that case, you may get chances to impress, but no sweat equity exists. For these players the pressure to perform at a high level will be insanely high. Each must rehabilitate their careers, try to remain healthy, and prove to a new staff that they remain reliable.
Obi is already feeling that pressure and he cannot possibly be alone. Seth Roberts’ career may depend on if he can transform into a special teams gunner. Both projected starting cornerbacks either enjoyed limited time as a starter or went down with injury. Vadal Alexander’s spot is up for grabs because of his suspension, the list goes on. There will be nowhere to escape and for those that cannot deal with the pressure. They will be jettisoned to ensure the team does not suffer for those who are unready for competition.