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Josh Jacobs And The Las Vegas Raiders: A Mishandling Of The League’s Most Consistent Running Back

The All-Pro, the disagreement, and the franchise tag that shall not be signed – such is life for Josh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders.

Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler may be new to the Silver and Black, but they aren’t unfamiliar with Josh Jacobs and his game – nor were they when they first landed in Sin City. When the duo took over in 2022 for Las Vegas, prior to officially coaching Jacobs for the first time, there was already a great deal of respect for the Raiders running back based on the research and scouting done in the past with New England.

In March of 2022, at the annual NFL Combine, McDaniels spoke of that respect he already had for Jacobs. “Excited to have an opportunity to coach this guy,” the Las Vegas head coach stated.

Despite never coaching Jacobs before, McDaniels was plenty familiar with the Alabama alum’s game.

“It’s funny. When you do all the work you do on all the players in the draft, and then you only get to have five or six of them on your team, the work that you’ve put in on all the other guys is not all lost when you have an opportunity like this.. And then you come to a new organization with a handful of those guys that you’ve done and worked on and really been fond of as you’ve gone through that process before, and Josh [Jacobs] would be one of those guys.”

Immediately after, McDaniels transitioned into what he’s fond of with Jacobs.

“[Jacobs] Runs hard, he can play on all three downs, can do things out of the backfield.. Certainly impacted this team in a lot of positive ways.”

Josh Jacobs And The Raiders: Spoken words say one thing, actions say another

As a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Jacobs’ contract had a fifth-year team-option built into it. McDaniels, excited to coach Jacobs, had a decision to make – pick up the fifth-year team-option, or roll the dice by declining it. Both he and general manager Dave Ziegler thought it best to go the latter route by not opting-in to the fifth year.

Then, the league’s first preseason contest came around.

In the Raiders’ first game of the preseason, Josh Jacobs not only played, but totaled a shockingly-high amount of snaps. During the first quarter alone, the RB1 logged a team-high seven touches. This, combined with the declining of Jacobs’ fifth-year option, seemed to point towards McDaniels looking to trade the team’s 24th-overall draft pick in 2019.

McDaniels shot the trade rumors down just as quick as they came out.

“We have a lot of confidence in J.J.,” McDaniels told ESPN’s Kimberley Martin. “We have no desire to do that at all,” the Raiders head coach responded to the talk of trading Jacobs.

Instead, McDaniels insisted the opt-out of Jacobs’ fifth-year option was simply the best business move for the team. After all, he hadn’t actually coached the 25-year-old before; if things weren’t how he’d imagined them being, there was an easy escape route. Conversely, if Jacobs proved to be the exact player McDaniels hoped he’d be, an immediate extension would make the most sense regardless.

Truly, this was a sensible solution to approach an uncertain fate.

However..

What good is proving you’re worth the money if the money never comes?

McDaniels wanted Jacobs to prove he deserved a pay-day. When you’ve never coached a player before, wanting to see what that player can do before committing long-term is incredibly reasonable. When that player outplays all others at his position, yet it still isn’t enough to earn the player an extension, that “incredibly reasonable” thinking turns into incredibly questionable logic, at best.

Starting his 2022 campaign without a new deal, Jacobs was motivated to earn a new contract at the season’s end. That motivation helped the fourth-year running back finish first in rushing yards (1,653) by over 100, first in first-downs on the ground (93) by 28, and tied for fifth in yards per rushing attempts (4.9) among players with at least 200 total rushes.

For his efforts, Jacobs was named a first-team All-Pro. Still, this didn’t secure him a long-term deal, and the league’s leading rusher was given the franchise tag instead of a contract extension – a franchise tag which the Raiders runner has no intentions of signing.

What makes the [lack of] long-term commitment to Jacobs even more questionable is the supreme consistency shown since his rookie year.

Contrary to belief, Josh Jacobs is as consistent as it gets

Nick Chubb is the only running back league-wide who can claim he’s been as consistent as the Raiders Pro Bowl back. From 2019 onward, starting at Jacobs’ initial season in the NFL, he and Chubb are the only two backs who have logged at least 20 broken tackles each season.

Of course, a runner can make would-be tacklers miss altogether without breaking a tackle, adding an element of elusiveness that isn’t present when specifically focusing on broken tackles. With their ‘forced missed tackles’ stat, Pro Football Focus accounts for these instances as well. Again, Chubb and Jacobs are the only two runners who totaled at least 50 forced missed tackles in each season, with neither finishing outside of the top-five in any year since 2019.

Jacobs, Chubb, Aaron Jones and Tony Pollard are the only four runners who have earned a running grade of at least 79.0 each year in this timeframe.

In just his rookie campaign, Jacobs earned the highest ‘elusiveness rating‘ from PFF among all backs with at least 90 carries, proving he’s been as good as it gets from the very start of his career.

The question is, how hasn’t the two-time Pro Bowler earned an extension with all of this backing him?

Some fans point their finger at his injury history, but Jacobs has never missed more than three contests in a season. In his latest campaign, he played in every contest, totaling the second-most rushing attempts across the league.

Others claim he offers little as a pass-catcher. While Raider Nation would like to see more in this area, Jacobs has improved on a yearly basis. Not only has his total yardage through the air increased each and every season, but so has his first-downs from receptions.

Franchise tag? No thank you, Raiders

Josh McDaniels has tested Jacobs at every turn since arriving in Las Vegas. Each time, the Tulsa native has gone above and beyond in answering the calling – to the point he forced his head coach to honor him as a team captain in the latter-half of the season through his play.

Yet Jacobs is still expected to play on a one-year franchise tag without the security of a long-term deal? Not a chance.

The first-team All-Pro has two words to say about the entire situation: Bad business.

He isn’t wrong, either. What type of message is this sending to free agents who the Raiders are pursuing? Even if you happen to be the most productive player at your position, at a mere 25 years old, you still aren’t getting an extension with the team.

Can you name anyone who craves a lack of job security, especially if they’re the best at what they do? I certainly can’t.

Jacobs loves being part of the Silver and Black; he has a tattoo of the logo on his arm, after all. However, everyone has a point where they’ve simply had enough. You can’t expect someone to have an ever-flowing fountain of loyalty towards something when that same something is continuously being downright unreasonable.

Perhaps Jacobs’ fountain of loyalty towards the Raiders has already dried up as is. If not, he and Las Vegas have until Monday, July 17th to reach an agreement regarding an extension. If there’s no deal by 4 p.m. ET, Jacobs will not be able to sign a long-term deal until the end of the upcoming regular season.

*Top Photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

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