Sunday’s game for the Las Vegas Raiders is pivotal as the team will enter a favorable stretch in their schedule. Moreover, the team has a legitimate chance to make a playoff run. Having said that, should anyone be on the hot seat right now?
After back-to-back years of futility, it was fair to wonder whether anyone in the Raiders coaching staff should be on the hot seat. Two names were obvious at the time: defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and quarterback Derek Carr. Head coach Jon Gruden was part of the conversation as well due to his track record. Following the debacle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden said that there would be ‘changes.’
Since the moment he made that statement, there hasn’t been much activity in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, two legitimate starting defensive ends were traded in the NFL this week. They were for late-round draft picks, a conditional sixth-round pick, and a seventh-round pick and neither one went to the Raiders. So far, the team hasn’t been part of any major transactions despite the promised ‘changes’. Inactivity aside, there is still some within the Raiders that should be on the hot seat, let’s take a look.
1. Paul Guenther, defensive coordinator
This doesn’t come as surprise, folks. Outside of a good three quarters against the New Orleans and one half against the Kansas City Chiefs, it looks bad. There have been many times where players are too wide open or left with too much space. Just look at Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers and then this past week against the ‘Bucs.’ The players should share some of the blame: However, it’s obvious they are following the scheme Guenther installed.
The Raiders are giving up an average of 32.8 points a game and 403.7 yards a game. This is kind of performance by the defense isn’t going to cut it. In five of the six games, they have given up 30 or more points. In previous years, the offense shared equal blame for team struggles. The difference is this year they are now averaging 28.5 points a game. The offense is carrying the Raiders so far, there’s no way Guenther should survive another week of dreadful defensive play. Whether Gruden will actually fire him is another question entirely.
2. Jon Gruden, Raiders head coach
Word of caution, this selection one may ruffle some feathers. When Gruden came back to the Silver and Black, he was hailed as a savior by many. Everyone knows that after the fateful ‘Tuck Rule’ game he was traded away only to lead the ‘Bucs’ to a Super Bowl victory. We’ll never know what might have been had things gone differently that game.
The Raiders post-Gruden were an NFL doormat. Bad drafting, horrendous free agent signings, and a coaching carousel surrounded the team in that span. It was not until 2016 that the Silver and Black emerged as a playoff team, Carr’s third year at the helm. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in 2017 which led to Gruden’s return. Though there was a honeymoon period between Gruden and Raider Nation, it’s now over. Gruden’s records in the last two years have been 4-12 and 7-9, which is more frustrating when you consider the team started 6-4 last season.
The Raiders are currently 3-3 and have played a difficult schedule with two solid wins against the Saints and Chiefs. The issue here is the losses have been winnable and the team has failed to make halftime adjustments. Guenther’s inability to field a competent defense, playing amid a pandemic, and no trade yet, have also been cause for concern. Fans want the team to succeed but everyone’s aware Gruden has a ten-year contract. This makes him untouchable to an extend, but should he be? In Year 3, the team has many of the same question marks as it did two years ago.
3. Derek Carr, Quarterback
In Derek Carr‘s case, his seat could, if nothing else, be a little warm. Carr has played really well this year, he’s taking shots downfield and using his legs more often now. Praise aside, Carr did have a bad performance against the Patriots. There were many plays where he missed open receivers and where he held to the ball too long. In that game, he definitely could have performed better.
However, there has been a shift with the Raiders and observers. In previous years, it all fell on Carr but with solid performances this year, that is changing. In fact, you would have been laughed at in previous seasons if you were to have said Carr would outplay Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees.
So far this year, Carr is at 72.0 percent with his completions, 13 touchdowns, 1726 yards, and only two interceptions. This offseason, it was fair to wonder if he would beat the Chiefs, but he delivered and could now be facing an under 50-degree weather game on Sunday. While fumbles are still an issue, if Carr can lead the Raiders to a win on Sunday, his seat might turn cold.
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*Top Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images