Raiders Josh Jacobs

Resurgent Las Vegas Raiders Are An Apt Character Study

The Las Vegas Raiders are 3-0 since their visibly shaken franchise quarterback wept at the podium and the owner gave a much-maligned head coach a vote of confidence. Who would’ve thunk it?

Only four games ago, following an inexcusable loss to an Indianapolis Colts team led by a high school football coach, the venom directed at the Silver and Black was toxic and constant—and with reason. But for a head coach who supposedly lost his locker room, has no leadership qualities, and can’t garner the respect of his star players, Josh McDaniels’ desert marauders are no longer wrecking themselves but sabotaging others and their aspirations.

Case in point: The Raiders’ latest victory, a 27-20 win over the visiting Los Angeles Chargers. The Bolts’ electricity was apparent early when they forced a Derek Carr interception to take a 7-0 lead. Yet, that didn’t deter the Raiders when it easily could’ve. While the Bolts are making a letdown loss to the Raiders a habitual thing, the Silver and Black have a well-documented history of folding faster than a desperate, degenerate gambler inside a casino when even the slightest thing goes awry.

Shoot, there’s been ample evidence this season of exactly that.

Have the Raiders turned the corner?

But, ever since Carr cried during the Colts’ loss postgame press conference and McDaniels received his vote of confidence from Mark Davis the next day, the Raiders have been a different breed.

“I think the character was on full display today,” Carr said after the victory over the Chargers. “And watching our guys bounce back—I mean, we turned it over again, twice. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter; it’s what we did. We just make it hard on ourselves and then see everybody bounce back and keep believing and playing. The defense was playing great for us, keeping them off the scoreboard and all that. It’s good seeing both sides of the ball helping each other and playing that way, and the energy on the sidelines was unbelievable.”

Las Vegas’ turnaround from haphazard Raiders to a complementary group is indeed a fascinating character study, almost unbelievable. Especially for McDaniels, who some in a loyal fanbase wanted excommunicado John Wick-style.

Josh McDaniels spoke on the Raiders’ character

“I mean, obviously, that speaks to their character,” McDaniels said when it was his time at the podium Sunday afternoon. “We’ve always just tried to be consistent with our approach, win, lose, or draw. We’re not going to change that this week because we won today or because we won three in a row. I think if you treat them with respect and continue to try to help them improve as football players, I don’t know what else they could really ask of you. Give us a chance to improve and get better and try to provide them with a plan that gives them a chance to win.”

“And that’s always worked for me wherever I’ve been, and I’ve seen a lot of great people utilize that. I think we have a great group. I mean, our captains are phenomenal. I’ve said that over and over again.”

Since that loss to the Colts, the team has played for each other and seemingly bought into the culture that’s being installed by the new regime. Certainly, McDaniels benefits from relying heavily on the captains and superstars—yes, despite the Raiders’ 5-7 overall record, there are elite talents on the team. And when I say heavily, I mean Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) dense. Just look at the production the Raiders offense is getting from wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs (and, by extension, Carr):

Being balanced was a detriment to the Raiders early on…

Being overtly balanced led to some painful lessons, and McDaniels is finally banking on his superstars. And the results are tremendous. Instead of trying to distribute the ball to keep individuals happy, McDaniels has fed it to Adams and Jacobs. The byproduct is not only victories and a resurgent offense, but the balance he was trying to find early on.

The Raiders’ changed demeanor is evidence of that.

Defensively, the football viewing world, and not just Raider Nation, is well aware of Maxx Crosby’s exploits, as he’s racked up 10.5 of the team’s 21 sacks. Crosby accounts for 50 percent of the quarterback takedowns but didn’t have a single sack in Sunday’s win. But that’s because other Raiders, namely the normally absent Chandler Jones, dropped Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert three times and hit him on countless more occasions.

It does appear McDaniels brought in “The Excellence of Execution,” Bret Hart, to consult with the team on execution. Because execution makes all the difference.

Yet, McDaniels said the proper thing in the postgame locker room celebration. He noted that the byproduct of winning is to maintain, and that’s the burden that awaits his Raiders. And the Silver and Black have a short week in Week 14 as they head East to battle the Los Angeles Rams (3-9) in SoFi Stadium this Thursday.

“When you lose, nobody likes the feeling, but I think how you respond to it is probably more important than winning,” McDaniels said. “So, we responded, I think, in the right way, and now we’ve kind of figured out some things and have more to figure out going forward.”

*Top Photo: Caean Couto/AP

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