Raiders: No Excuses – the Great Hoodwink of 2017

At the beginning of the year, the Oakland Raiders’ time was now.

But what if the great hoodwink of 2017 started when fans thought the Raiders were responsible for the departure of former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. What if Musgrave left on his own because of the toxicity of his working environment?

Distraction after distraction has eroded the hopes of another winning season like the pipes in the lavatories of the Oakland Alameda Coliseum. What was once a place of promise seems like paradise lost but what happened?

Even the consummate professional and friendly face of the franchise quarterback Derek Carr doesn’t seem to be smiling as much as he has in seasons past. During the offseason, much talk was heard and made about Carr receiving autonomy in the offense, he was even called an extension of the offensive coordinator. But something has been dreadfully amiss and one can only speculate.

Was it the injured back, was it a case of the yips from the broken leg and the process of mental recovery which is longer than physical? Maybe it was or maybe it has been the simplification of a once dynamic and multi-dimensional offense? Carr didn’t forget how to play quarterback but has he been stellar? Not by a longshot but he will tell you himself he has not. Critics, however, have been lining up to take shots at the Raiders offense.

“Festering for a while,” a damning assessment of the 2017 season. No, the Raiders have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Realistically, judging only by the flatness in which they’ve shown in the majority of important games this season thus far, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a horrific one and done run should the universe and stars continue to align as they have all season long. When you listen to eyewitness accounts from those in the know and Hall of Famers it’s hard to believe otherwise.

You see, part of the problem for the Raiders has been the fundamentals on defense, a constant ailment since their ’02 Super Bowl. Two years under head coach Jack Del Rio and former defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. weren’t enough to improve the fundamentals. Despite offering Norton every opportunity to prove himself ultimately Del Rio had to bring in someone else capable of doing the job.

In came John Pagano adding a third former or currently active defensive coordinator type working on the same defense. If this wasn’t a contingency plan I don’t know what is.

Midway thru the season, Norton a player’s favorite amongst the coaching staff was let go, a move many thought should have been made in the offseason. It wasn’t, whether it be a product of what appears to be a buddy-buddy system in Oakland or a belief in Norton being able to turn it around with help, a scapegoat was created.

The truth of the matter is in 2017 the defense is the best unit on this team. They have spent the amount of time on a field offenses covet. Third-down conversion rates have been through the roof all season long exacerbated by an offense which struggles to generate first downs throughout meaningful minutes in games.

Setting NFL history in longevity without an interception, being dead last in sacks while being inept against the pass other teams quarterbacks look at Oakland’s defense akin to a bonus level. The worst quarterbacks the league have to offer can suddenly appear to have found the magic in college which got them to this point, where they can throw as much as they can for whatever they can. This is the reason why Norton was fired and rightfully so, here is where the Raiders corners and safeties rank against the pass this year.

Throw in the fact the Raiders defense employs a soft coverage base of nearly seven yards is it really any surprise? Herein lies another issue, while Del Rio remains primarily a players coach, many former players have lived through and spun a similar tale of woe about being under coach Del Rio.

Fred Taylor, featured in a story in Pro Football Talk gave a scathing review in a comparison between Del Rio, Bill Belichick, and Tom Coughlin.

Rumors are ablaze as the seasons end swiftly approaches and the defecation sits primed atop its perch upon the rotary oscillator. Multiple sources say if the Raiders do not finish .500 or better expect a wide range of changes. With all the talent on the field and expectations as high as they have ever been a silent struggle has been taking place in the shadows and when the season ends it will be time for the final light to shine on that ugly truth.

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