The numbers do Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther no favors.
Against the visiting Tennessee Titans this past Sunday, his Raiders defense was eviscerated for touchdown drives of: 74, 77, 84, 89 and 91 yards.
“Every time we touched it, we felt like we were going to score,” said Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill after dropping 391 yards and three touchdowns on Guenther’s defense. (Never mind the fact the former Dolphins QB completed nearly 78 percent of his passes).
Sunday’s 42-21 debacle was yet another example in a long list of impotent performances from Guenther’s group. The totality of the futility is only magnified by — ironically enough — stepping back and looking at the grand view of Guenther’s tenure as defensive boss.
“Raiders have allowed NFL-worst 11 TD drives of 90+ yards in 2 seasons under Paul Guenther,” the AP’s Josh Dubow tweeted.
“Raiders have allowed 16 TD drives of 80+ yards this season, tied with Arizona for most in NFL,” Dubow posted later on.
Through 16 games in his first-year orchestrating Oakland’s defense, Guenther’s side of the ball ranked 32nd in the league in points allowed and 25th in yards yielded. Through 13 games this season, the Raiders are 29th in points given up and 28th in yards allowed.
While the Raiders defense had its moments against bruising tailback Derrick Henry, Tannehill was left clean and rarely pressured and was throwing dimes against an uber susceptible Raiders secondary.
Time and again, Oakland’s special teams pinned Tennessee deep — and it didn’t matter.
What Did Gruden Have To Say?
“It’s like getting punched in the stomach,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said of watching the Titans’ lengthy scoring drives. “It knocks the wind out of you. Sometimes you’ve got to win the game of field position, you’ve got to force a three-and-out.
“We weren’t able to do that yesterday from the jump, and (we’re) very, very concerned about it. We’re going to make some changes. We’re going to get it right.”
“It’s tough, but it’s a necessary evil right now,” Gruden added. “We’ve got to play better. And we’re going to play better. And there will be changes. There will be changes. What happened yesterday will not happen again. I can’t allow it to happen.”
Changes arrived on Tuesday, the day after Gruden said they would come as the Raiders waxed safety D.J. Swearinger, linebacker Preston Brown and defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Offensively, the team sent rookie tight end Foster Moreau to injured reserve and signed running back Rod Smith (a ‘big’ tailback at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds). That leaves a trio of open roster spots on the 53.
Fans want change on defense and with three games left in the 2019 campaign, its too little, too late. Starters may get shuffled around, players may get signed off the street. But, objectively speaking, can Guenther be held solely responsible considering what he has to work with?
Sure, injuries decimate rosters across the NFL landscape and shouldn’t be used as an excuse. But when your roster isn’t replete with talent, there’s only so much a coach can do. The Raiders defense across the board is severely lacking in talent. That’s an inescapable fact.
So is Paulie G really that bad?
On the surface you can say: Yes.
Dig a little bit deeper and look at the underlying issues and it gets murky. Raider Nation may not want to hear it, but it’s going to take another draft or two, free agency period or two for Guenther to land his requisite pieces for his defense. The 4-3 zone-based concepts he learned from current Minnesota Vikings head honcho Mike Zimmer and deployed as Bengals defensive boss has a specific set of skill position players.
Will Gruden have the patience to wait? That is unanswerable as we’ve seen Gruden can change his mind day to day.
Yet, Gruden and Guenther are close friends. Paulie G turned down reported overtures from both Zimmer and Jay Gruden (former Washington head coach) to join their staff to link up with Jon. Add into the mix Guenther is also close friends with Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock, you have to figure Paulie G’s job security is pretty stout.
You May Also Like: Listen to the Latest Ladies of Darkness Podcast
Here’s the objective thought: Continue to get Guenther the pieces and add more tools and talent to definitively answer the question: Are the defensive woes due to players or coach?
If Gruden waxes Guenther, you’d be starting from scratch in terms of coach, scheme and required players, no?
Time has run out for the Oakland Raiders to answer that. But the Las Vegas Raiders have ample time to formulate the response to that particular query.