Is it time to panic for the Oakland Raiders?
Some would answer that question with a resounding yes. In fact, many fans already have. Those who have not at least know where that button is, just in case. It certainly is tough to be optimistic when the Oakland Raiders chances of even making the playoffs now are just over 20%. All but gone are the hopes for a division crown. And as far as a Super Bowl? Those hopes are looking pretty grim!
Since the Baltimore Ravens beat the Raiders 30-17 I have heard it all. It is owner Mark Davis’s fault for bargain shopping for coaches. It is general manager Reggie McKenzie’s fault for Sean Smith and an “injury prone” draft class. Some fans are wishing the Raiders had let offensive coach Todd Downing leave, and had kept Bill Musgrave. Then there was the tried and true “fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.” mantra. Heck, some people are openly wondering if extending head coach Jack Del Rio’s contract was a “mistake”.
Seriously, have those people already forgotten 14 years of futility? Is this season disappointing? Sure and I understand the frustration, but the overreaction level with some of the Raiders fan base is, quite frankly, embarrassing.
Then there is me.
The Raiders are better than their record.
Some of you, even Coach Del Rio, will disagree with me. His words of wisdom being “You are what you earn” and the Raiders are 2-3. There is no disputing that fact either. At the end of the day, it does come down to their record. Having said that, there is still time to right this ship. I am not here to say that the game against the Los Angeles Chargers is a “Must-Win” situation. However, it is as close to one as it gets.
This team though is better than its current record suggests. I know the last three weeks have not looked like it though and I get it, but it really is true. The offense has all the tools needed, especially with Derek Carr coming back to the helm. The defense has been a solid anchor for this team, except for last week. And while the defense started off sloppy, they adjusted very well after halftime, only to then lose both starting inside linebackers, Cory James, and Marquel Lee. This was in addition to corner Antonio Hamilton, who was injured on the opening kickoff.
So what has been the problem?
Distraction, hubris, and key injuries have all played a part. There has also been execution and play calling issues. For the last three games, the offense is vastly underperforming and the defense has only played decently at times. Neither side of the ball has shown a level of consistency that was expected or shown in the first two games. Unfortunately, there really is no single focal point to say this is the problem. Which means it falls on the default focal point, head coach Jack Del Rio. He is the captain of this ship, he is the man ultimately responsible for wins and losses, like it or not.
So what does that mean?
It means its time for coach Del Rio to reignite the fire the team had to open the season. He has to get all these men refocused on the task at hand. He needs to reassert his will on this team and help this team find the passion it has lost in the last three weeks. The next two weeks are crucial. Going to 2-5 would be a disaster of epic proportions for a team that many, including myself, pegged as a legitimate Super Bowl team. That would be time to hit the panic button.
Honestly, this team needs that wake-up call. Winning is the only thing that will cure this ailment. This week is desperation mode, because the Kansas City Chiefs are in town the following week, possibly still undefeated. The biggest thing this team needs though is Carr. For better or for worse the Raiders season lives or dies on the arm of Derek Carr. He needs to be ready to play, and be allowed to run this offense unhindered. Because for the Raiders to keep their playoff hopes alive they really need to win one of the next two games.
The Raiders season is hanging in the balance.