Entering Week 16, many possessed expectations for the Las Vegas Raiders. Quarterback Derek Carr missed a majority of the week’s practices while working out his groin. Yet, he stayed off the team’s final injury report while the defense worked to figure things out. This marked interim defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s first full week. Jon Gruden needs to answer for this mess.
With everything set up for a crushing, disappointing game for the Silver and Black, the Raiders flipped the script. They stifled Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to less than 100 passing yard,s while their offense moved the ball downfield impressively.
Throughout the game, the Raiders looked poised to outscore Miami and escape Allegiant Stadium with a rare home win. However, the Raiders were clearly held back by something.
The offense drove at will, the defense locking down the electric rookie quarterback. However, the reliable creativity of a Jon Gruden offense was lacking once more. Las Vegas started the game going 0-9 on third downs. In addition, the team performed similarly in the red zone, setting for multiple field goals inside the 20-yard line. Gruden’s infatuation with seasoned veteran Jason Witten appeared to be cause for concern.
Tell Me Why
If only the Raiders had a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end they could look towards in situations like this. The “other” Raiders tight end, Darren Waller, currently enjoying another career year, yet he still is forced to fight with Witten for redzone targets. Waller uses wide receiver athleticism paired with tight end size, making him a guaranteed mismatch for anyone covering him.
Why does Gruden prefer Witten in the red zone? Waller is better than Witten in every sense of the word. Also, third-string tight end Foster Moreau shows reliability as well. Rookie receiver Henry Ruggs jut runs routes for cardio. Bryan Edwards is also capable of hauling in goa line fades, and Hunter Renfrow cashed in goalline situations.
Every section of the team did their job against Miami, except for one: the head coach. Gruden had one of the most secure jobs throughout the first half of the season, following victories over the Saints and Chiefs, and yet Gruden is the only one stoking the embers underneath his seat, as he is truly his own worst enemy.
Money Well Spent?
A $100 million coach should not lead a team to perform this poorly in crunch time. Yet, that contract will keep him with the team for the future.