The Las Vegas Raiders defense ranks among the worst in the NFL heading into Week 8. While they are still in a good spot and currently hold a 3-3 record, that is mostly due to the offense’s ability to score points. If the Raiders want to make an impact, and even dare I say, make the playoffs, their defense needs to step up. Leaving opposing players wide open for a third and 13 conversion won’t cut it.
3rd & 13, 4Q. #Raiders have to get off field here in 4 point game. Cover 2 sink, want to force checkdown, rally and tackle. LB Morrow starts to go with crosser (Miller) and gets out of position. He needs to come up and make this tackle short of sticks.#RaiderNation 📽️ @Rholm22 pic.twitter.com/ocHVmYUA3G
— Ramble Digital Media™ (@RambleDMedia) October 28, 2020
Looking at the Raiders current struggles on defense, why don’t we try a different approach. We will go all the way back to Gruden’s first tenure as the head coach to see whether this has been a recurring problem.
How has the Raiders defense fared historically?
The Raiders have allowed 197 points so far this season. They are currently on pace to finish the season with the worst defense in franchise history. The Raiders’ 2018 defense currently holds the record after allowing 467 points that season. Coincidentally, that was defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s first year with the team. The next closest was 458 points and that was going back to 1961. The 2013 squad would then follow with 453 points surrendered under Jason Tarver.
Comparing apples to oranges, Tarver’s group had given up 132 at this point of the season. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ 1961 defense had allowed 228. For a more recent comparison, Ken Norton Jr’s defense allowed 385 points in 2015 and 373 the following season. Looking at Norton’s lack of results, it wasn’t surprising to see then Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio part ways with him.
In retrospect, Norton was a man with no experience as a defensive coordinator. Nevertheless, he at least showed progress during his tenure with the Silver and Black. On the other hand, it looks like Guenther is getting worse even though he had four years of experience at the position prior to joining the Raiders coaching staff.
Then again, Guenther’s tenure as a defensive coordinator was under defensive-minded head coach Marvin Lewis. Keep in mind that Lewis orchestrated one of the best defenses in NFL history with the Baltimore Ravens. Although Guenther had the title back in Cincinnati, Lewis was the one calling the shots.
Gruden V.1.0 vs Gruden V.2.0
Looking back, Jon Gruden had much better defenses in his first tenure with the Raiders. Then, he had defensive coordinator Willie Shaw, whose teams allowed 356 points in 1998 and 329 in 1999. Later, Chuck Bresnahan would take over the position and the team gave up 299 points in 2000 and 327 in 2001.
Back in those days, he also had the late Al Davis to lean on and maybe that is the biggest difference. Gruden is running the show in Las Vegas, and doesn’t have Davis to meddle with him. Instead, the coach has general manager Mike Mayock and owner Mark Davis. Neither of them have the experience to really question him.
The Raiders have not produced the best defenses over their history, outside of those ruthless ones that took over the 70s and 80s. In that regard, Paul Guenther fits right in. Sadly, he has lowered the bar, and Gruden’s inability to hold him accountable makes it worse. As a matter of fact, the Silver and Black’s lack of accountability may be the franchise’s biggest problem moving forward. Davis and Mayock won’t hold Gruden accountable, he’s on the payroll for seven more years, and Guenther most likely signed a four year deal.
Unless Gruden kicks his best friend to the curb, the team will be stuck with more of the same PG-rated defense when they really need to be playing more rated R. Luckily, the offense is doing enough to keep the games close and Raiders can still be a contender. Imagine how good the team could be if the defense stepped up and contained teams to less points.
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