A lot of strange aromas have been wafting around the Oakland Raiders lately. Aromas ranging from delighting the senses with the sweet smell of victory and opportunity to the acrid smoldering stench of their semi-existential 2% playoff scenario. While the season has yet to expire, rumors are flying and there will be conspiracy theories.
There are really no ways to attempt to tie a pretty bow on the all-encompassing sheer unpalatable reek that has been the 2017 season. The offense has underperformed, the offensive coordinator can’t call plays, the quarterback has regressed, the head coach can’t coach; they need to fix the defense and we’ll be alright. All are the customary depictions associated with the fan base of a losing team searching for ways to improve. Watching the Raiders for the duration of the season, I have some questions.
- Who, besides the Raiders, was really after Todd Downing as an offensive coordinator?
- What is really going on with the quarterback; has he regressed or…?
- When did it become apparent to make the switch at defensive coordinator?
- Where did the “mojo” go?
- Why was the relationship with Bill Musgrave unsalvageable?
- How do we fix it?
Things that make you go “hmmm…”
Who was after Downing as an unknown wunderkind from the tree of Scott Linehan, is an interesting spin on a question that was never asked. While readily admitting to not having any involvement in the contractual proceedings of Mr. Downing, we can say not too many teams have come out admitting wanting to steal him away. So one must question just how much interest he drummed up that keeping an untested offensive coordinator was in the team’s best interest, rather than the man orchestrating the No. 6 scoring offense the year before?
Derek Carr was clutch in 2016. This year he’s slipping worse than DMX with a Halloween badge in an airport. Some would cite the plethora of injuries he’s amassed in a short amount of time occupying free real estate in his mind; others would say he has just regressed and stinks. My theory is purely speculation. Let me say this again: speculation. Carr’s back is less than feeling better and he doesn’t trust his deep ball.
#Raiders QB Derek Carr attempted three deep passes (20+ air yards) against DAL in Week 15, completing one for 28 yards.
Man, what a way "let it rip."
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) December 19, 2017
What concerns me most and points me in this direction is the reliance on curl flat concepts and window dressings of the same play. All season long we have made reference to the blistering pace in which he is getting the ball out. Also mentioned has been the lack of accuracy this season, unbecoming of Carr. Watching the tape closely, it appears during a good percentage of passes, Carr is taking 3-4 step drops or setting his feet for a quick throw at the snap.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) December 19, 2017
As a whole, his deep shots have been less numerous and for a man known for delivering 50/50 balls on a dime, ranking near the bottom in terms of completion percentage is abnormal. When you mix in him breaking down coverage on what appears to be an open receiver, you see he understands what he’s seeing but he’s not pulling the trigger and there is a reason why.
He isn’t healthy, big shocker. Probably should not have come back so early but much respect to the warrior inside him.
KNJ < Pagano Effect
Ken Norton Jr. was a beloved figure here in Oakland by many and respected by all. As a schemer at this level, he proved to be limited; however, with John Pagano, a superior option for the position waiting in the wings, why play Russian Roulette with your season? Norton’s defense and Pagano’s defense have produced the same amount of sacks and turnovers in six fewer games. Pagano’s defense produced four interceptions in four weeks, Norton Jr. set an NFL record for longest stretch without!
#Raiders ranks on D under Norton vs Pagano:
Passer rating: 113.3, 32nd vs 75.9, 8th
Sacks: 14, T31st vs 14, T4th
yds/att: 8.0, 30th vs 6.8, 14th
INT: 0, 32nd vs 4, T9th
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) December 19, 2017
Undeniably the proof is in the pudding, leading to the question, why did they wait so long to make a move? What could the outcome have been if they had just done this from the beginning? At this point it’s a should have, would have, could have scenario, but decisions like these have altered the course of 2017.
Help Me, I’ve Lost my Mojo
All jokes aside, “IT” is called many things. When you have “IT”, you make plays in crunch time situations and when you don’t have “IT”, you won’t.
The Raiders have been so out of sync with themselves all season long it’s been hard to watch and surely equally frustrating to be a part of. It’s hard to win in this league and impossible when everybody isn’t pulling in the same direction. The defense has fielded a lot of criticism and while statistically relevant, it is extremely unfair. The defense has been stuck in more than a fair share of bad situations where the best and most likely outcome was giving up a field goal.
Without both sides playing complementary football things have turned into one great big “cluster-$&%*.”
Musgrave, please come back!
All in all, during the season Del Rio oversaw two major changes to his staff, a team which had previously won 12 games. Letting Musgrave walk was a healthy reminder to always be careful what you wish for. In terms of rewarding coaches for a job well done, the relationship with a coordinator who helped you win 12 games should never be bad. Lesson learned, 12 games are what he won and the appreciation he got was so minuscule, he took his talents to the Rocky Mountains. This is going to be a move that could potentially haunt this franchise if they don’t get an A+ coordinator in here fast.
How do we solve these issues and get this team back on track? Luckily the Raiders should be in the most fortunate of places for a losing team to be in. All of their issues are primarily coaching related.
This same group of men on defense is attacking and looking like a fully capable group of individuals, all “playing with their hair on fire.” With the exception of losing Latavius Murray, the offense was the same unit that nearly led the league in scoring a season previously. The talent is there, and with what shapes up to be a top ten to mid-round draft slot, they stand to be able to add even more elite talent to a good roster.
It’s been a rough year and someone is going to have to be Chris Carter’s proverbial “fall-guy”, and yes, Norton was one, but it seems as though they may be preparing to double down. Downing should take the walk of shame; this offense has been too simplistic and able to decipher to even the untrained eye, and for that, he must go.
Letting go of Downing and should my belief of Carr’s condition be accurate, in combination with the monies owed, it should be enough to save Del Rio’s job for another season. There has been a myriad of rumors concerning the warmth of his seat and the yearly chants of “Chucky, Chucky, Chucky” can be heard echoing thru the Coliseum. Del Rio will need to add a prominent offensive coordinator and leave him alone to fix this offense, then let Pagano mold this defense as he sees fit and the Raiders can rebound in 2018.