When the coaching staff of a team decides that making the playoffs in the current season are simply not in the cards, they can resort to tanking. However, the coaches know their job could be on the line if the tanking appears obvious. Nevertheless, the Raiders appear to be taking a different approach. Granted, this article took a week, in order to calmly assess the situation.
It would appear that Jon Gruden, in his first year of a ten-year, $100 million contract, feels his job is secure enough to blatantly tank. While roster moves can appear justified using the belief that this team is planning a quick rebuild for Las Vegas, the play of the Raiders gives fans the impression of a lost season.
Last Thursday’s game against the 49ers was no anomaly. To the Raiders, this game felt like a must-lose, as they chase the first pick in the draft. It is interesting to speculate on how Gruden coached a team so unmotivated, that the offense could not score on the 1-7 49ers. The fans, players, and coaches alike know the 49ers are bad. As a result, following a 31-point loss, how can team morale get much lower?
Despite the team appearing to give up, there are still takeaways available. For example, Derek Carr’s play in primetime can be analyzed. Carr completed 16 of his 21 passes for 171 yards (10.6 yard average) for neither a touchdown or an interception. With 5 passes completed to running backs. In that case, that while the passes netted a 10 yard average, the balls probably did not stay in the air for all 10.
The biggest takeaway from Derek Carr’s primetime play came in the third quarter on a third and long. With no receivers available and the middle of the field open, Carr channeled his 2016 self and began to scramble. However, when Carr approached the first down marker, with a blocker between him and the nearest defender, Carr slid. In his defense, Carr endured injuries during his short career. On the otherhand, especially in a primetime “Battle of the Bay” game, wouldn’t adrenaline outweigh fear?
The secondary takeaway comes from the other side of the ball. While all positions are to blame for the atrocious showing against a subpar team, the linebackers need admonishing. With a 3rd string, rookie quarterback making his career debut, the Raiders had to be prepared to defend against the run and, after the defensive linemen, the linebackers are the first line of defense against the run. This being said, the linebackers had more holes than a warehouse full of doughnuts. Before injuring his arm, Raheem Mostert ran the ball 7 times.
While there is nothing showy about 7 touches, what he did with those touches may impress some. Mostert was able to rush for 86 yards and a touchdown. Linebackers are also typically responsible for guarding tight ends on passing plays, which they did just as poorly. Greg Kittle logged 4 receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
It is truly disappointing to see the route. From the 12-4 season just two years ago to poor play. Yet, all fans can do is hope. As scary as it may sound, Gruden still holds the key to the future