Anger, disbelief, grief, indifference, and rage. Emotions amongst the Oakland Raiders fan base is wide and varied as the team plummeted to 2-4 overall with a 17-16 loss this past Sunday at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers.
The hysteria has run amuck. As WWE owner Vince McMahon would say, “It’s pandemonium!”
While the finger-pointing to the exact reason behind why the Raiders are in dire straits is just as diverse as the sentiments of Raider Nation, I sought out the thoughts of one of Al Davis’ top lieutenants, former Raiders CEO Amy Trask, on the matter.
“Good morning Amy!,” is how the Monday-morning Tweet began, “In your opinion, what happened to the Raiders offense? Staggering difference this year compared to last.”
“Too much to address on Twitter – spoke about it on CBS Sports Net yesterday – and hi,” was the response.
Quickly, I scoured the Twitterverse and located said video. And what “The Princess of Darkness” espoused Sunday morning should reverberate amongst a fractured fan base. She didn’t mention Todd Downing by name, but:
“(Oakland) had an offensive line that was doing well, a power-blocking scheme with talent which was well-suited for a power scheme, it was working. Working exceptionally well. So you’re going to tinker with it? Why?”
“You bring in a new offensive coordinator, does he want to show he’s smarter than everyone else? Does he want to insert his system without regard to talent that were working well in another system? Why would you do this?”
“This is the kind of thing, so you men know, that makes front-office executives go insane. You had a portion of your team, and I do think it was the best offensive line in football from a pass protection standpoint, and yet a new coordinator comes in and says ‘Well, wait, wait, wait, I’m going to fix it.’ But you didn’t fix it. I think that’s an issue for the team.”
Trask is then asked: “Should Reggie McKenzie intervene and say ‘Get back to what we used to do.’?”
And Trask replies: “Or the head coach, maybe?”
The video ended with Trask putting forth another key component to Oakland’s missteps:
“Last year, 2016, Oakland had 30 takeaways, this year, four in five games, two of which were on special teams, so that’s an issue as well.”
Welp. Oakland did make it five when Dexter McDonald forced a fumble which the Raiders recovered, so …
But I digress. Without its normally explosive and domineering offense setting the tone, the defense has wilted at the most critical of times.
Let’s dip our toes in some numbers, folks. The Raiders are second-worst in the league when it comes to offensive time of possession (27:39). Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are worse (27:36). Flip the coin and Oakland’s defense has been on the field third-most in the league at 32:21. Only the Bucs (32:24) and San Francisco 49ers (35:14) are worse.
It’s a fact Raiders defenders are on the field way too long. But the fact has a despicable nickname: Excuse.
When the team needed it most, the defense has been unable to quell or stamp out hopes other than its own. And in back-to-back weeks (first against Baltimore and then Los Angeles) no less.
But will sweeping changes come? Will Del Rio or McKenzie exert some power and step in?
McKenzie is a deliberate general manager with calm, measured and collected moves. Del Rio is unlikely to can Downing, the neophyte play caller the team elevated to orchestrate the offense that produced under Bill Musgrave’s guidance. The team has made its bed and must sleep in it.
Here’s the more likely scenario: Oakland finishes out the season with its coaching staff intact, McKenzie evaluates in the offseason and makes any moves then. The team is six games in a season after going 12-4. A knee-jerk reaction now would only compound a floundering season.
But boy, the year doesn’t get any easier, does it?
Not with a 5-1 Kansas City squad — seething after a 19-16 defeat at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers — Oakland-bound for a Thursday night primetime clash.
Coming off his first loss of the season, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is going to have his usual magnificent game plan against Del Rio, a fellow coach he’s owned since Del Rio took the reins as Raiders boss. And that’s because the Chiefs have an identity.
The Raiders lost theirs after a 2-0 start. And the team seems deathly afraid to find a new one, four-straight losses prove as much.