The angst and skepticism emanating from Raider Nation are as warranted as they are well understood. Nice things don’t come easy for a loyal fan base that’s habitually let down by their beloved team. And certainly, the way the Las Vegas Raiders started the 2022 campaign, seething with anger, wasn’t surprising to Raider Nation.
The Josh McDaniels experience careened into disaster as it culminated in an inexcusable loss to the Jeff Saturday-led Indianapolis Colts. And judging by the various social media platforms, the reactions to both quarterback Derek Carr crying at the postgame podium and Raiders owner Mark Davis giving McDaniels a vote of confidence a day later were visceral. “I’m going to break some s***”-type mad.
Nonetheless, here we are, with the same McDaniels-led Raiders winning three straight games to improve to 5-7.
Is Joshy Poo absolved of the 2-7 start? Hell. No. He’s the head coach of both the sinking Silver and Black and the suddenly rejuvenated Desert Marauders. There’s no getting around that. As much as he harped on the dire need for player execution, the buck always stops with the head honcho. And that’s what McDaniels is. He’s one half of the Patriots’ BOGO (buy one, get one) deal that brought general manager Dave Ziegler to Las Vegas.
Raiders Blog: A Case Of Jekyll And Hyde
But with these Jekyll & Hyde Raiders, folks, you have to take the good with the bad.
A big reason for the turnaround? The players are executing McDaniels’ and his coaching staff’s concepts. Surprise!
It’s an elementary inception point to the complex season that’s 2022 for Las Vegas. Lament on McDaniels play call acumen all you want — you can argue the good, bad, and ugly of it for all eternity — but when it works, that sh*t looks damn good.
Case in point: the Carr-to-Davante Adams 31-yard dime. It was a completion that showcased everything that’s right and could continue to be right with McDaniels’ offense. That verbally abused and oft-mocked offensive line held up. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ quarterback dropped a dime to his electrifying wideout, who made a stupendous catch with a defender draped all over him. Adams, not surprisingly, was asked about that touchdown on Tuesday during his media availability, and guess who his answer gave kudos to first?
“Well, it was a great call,” Adams said, referring to McDaniels. “I think anytime you have momentum like that, defense gets a stop, and we go out there and call something like that where you’re kind of challenging what they’re doing because typically that’s not the move that most offenses are going to do — first play go at the end zone after a turnover.
“So, it just shows the coaching staff and Josh’s (McDaniels’) individually, his belief in me as a player to go and do that or give us an offense. But obviously the ball is getting thrown to me. So, my job is to just come down with as many of those as possible just to keep that on the front of his mind.”
Josh McDaniels is finally getting credit for the Raiders’ success
h snap! It’s an elite Raider giving McDaniels credit. Now, I know some may look at the quote and Adams’ sentiment and immediately say, “Doesn’t matter, Josh. Adams can make any coach look good.” If you want to be obtuse, I’m not stopping you.
But what’s an objective fact is this: McDaniels gambled, and it’s starting to pay off despite the obvious growing pains.
Let’s go back to the Raiders’ big uglies. That offensive line was a musical chairs unit that saw every imaginable combination the coaching staff could think of. Sans injury, the only constants are left tackle Kolton Miller and center Andre James (both UCLA products, by the way). Initially, it was a nauseating experience as it was up and down and every which way in terms of good, bad, and ugly. Yet, in the Raiders’ victories (and even losses), the trench warriors have become steady. While the attention is on elite Raiders like Adams and running back Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas’ wide receiver is quick to point out the obvious.
“Well, I mean, we’ve definitely got a lot of potential to do a lot of good things. But it’s a lot more than just me and Josh,” Adams said. “If we’re on top of it, because we’re two of the guys that get the bulk out there, and we kind of assume that role to hold that burden. But at the end of the day, Josh can’t do anything that he does without the big men up front doing their job, and the same goes for me. Everything starts upfront. So, everybody’s got to do their job; it’s not just he and I, but we definitely assume that role and enjoy it.”
Raiders Blog: The O-Line deserves its flowers right now
A tip of the cap to (from left tackle to right) Miller, Dylan Parham, James, Alex Bars, and Jermaine Eluemunor. It hasn’t always been pretty, but when it clicks, it kicks, like Shawn Michaels’ “Sweet Chin Music.”
Of all McDaniels’ and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo’s biggest gambles, the shaping of the offensive line is the largest. And leave it to McDaniels to bring it back to Earth with levity.
“Just I think trying to evaluate it day to day and really be honest with ourselves,” McDaniels said when asked during his Wednesday press conference about what gave him the confidence the shuffling would work out. “Look, ‘work out’ is a relative term, as you know. They’ve gotten to string together some games here over the course of the season. There are definitely things we can do better, but I think as a unit they’re trying to do the right things as we go through the season. As long as we’re honest about the things we’re doing right and the things we’re not, then I think you’re always kind of being led to the right decision.”
“So, we did talk about opportunities starting back in the spring, giving everybody opportunities to earn their role. We’ve been consistent with that and that approach. I think we’ve rewarded the people that have played the most consistently and done the things that we’re asking them to do the best, and we continue to do that.”
McDaniels is slowly earning everyone’s trust
Little by little, McDaniels is earning some of the belief he lost during a tumultuous 2-7 record. It’s going to take a lot more for even the most jaded members of Raider Nation to buy in. In fact, a loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night evaporates the sprinkles of goodwill McDaniels is building for many fans.
But just as Carr barks out calls and identifies defenders when he stands up at the line of scrimmage, McDaniels is getting everyone on the same page.
“Yeah, I mean, there are different calls that are made based on that. That’s a good question, and it’s a big question that I could go down a long rabbit hole of stuff about,” Carr said when asked specifically what he’s doing on those adjustments. “But really, it’s just helped to get communication going and for everyone to get on the same page and things like that.”
Carr went on to say every game is important from here on in “because of the way we didn’t win certain games early on in the season.”
Take the good with the bad, Raider Nation. It’s all you can do during this high-low season. Let the chips fall where they may, and let the final record be the ultimate arbiter.
*Top Photo: Official Raiders YouTube Channel