After having an evening to re-watch last night's abomination, and to let some of the anger subside, I decided to make note of some of the differences I saw in the coaching this year/game as opposed to the previous administration. Changes are marked with either a pro (keep the change) or con (change is for the worse), with totals to see if the coaching for the game was better than we would have had in years prior.
Zone Blocking (CON): The change to the Zone Blocking scheme in the run game was one that was met with both passionate skepticism and optimism, depending on who the analysis was coming from. Personally, I was a skeptic of the change simply for the fact that the Raiders' running game was NOT broken whatsoever last year, so I didn't see any reason to try and fix/change it. So far, that analysis showed to be accurate. Furthermore, we famously heard when Hue was first hired that he went to D-Mac and asked him what kinds of runs would make him most comfortable. D-Mac of course told Hue that he preferred power type runs as opposed to the zone scheme, which is both why the Raiders switched to the power scheme in the first place and why D-Mac started to break out under Hue's guidance. So in conclusion, switching back to the zone scheme was a con for the running game.
Zone Defense (PRO): We also saw loads more zone defense today than in seasons (decades even) past. For the most part, they were executed well with very few blown assignments. Despite the lack of pass rush that plagued the Raiders throughout the game, the defensive secondary remained relatively stout, allowing only one big play in the pass game despite numerous San Diego attempts to force the issue. Oh yeah, and the fact that that Gates guy has killed the Raiders for the past 58 years (seemingly) means that just seems to be something we have to accept at this point. Still, big plus on the execution of zone defenses, which will pay big dividends as we add more variety to our scheme.
AGGRESSIVENESS (CON): This area was by far my biggest disappointment in the new coaching staff. The lack of aggressiveness in any aspect of the game plan was utterly appalling in my opinion. The Raiders right now (and in the past few years) are a team that can compete with anybody in the league, and with a break or two in a game can beat anybody in the league. Our previous coaches understood this, and understood that sometimes that means trying to create your own breaks (think of the fake punts last year) instead of trying to sit back and hope for the opponent to screw up. Last night, no such risks were even considered, let alone taken (and no, I don't count the attempted reverse as an aggressive playcall). There were several opportunities to try and make a momentum-shifting play, and the coaches passed on every one of them. No blitzes on third downs, no pushing the ball downfield, checkdown after checkdown, and of course kicking a field goal from the 1 yard line when RUNNING THE BALL is supposed to be your bread and butter! That one yard should be automatic, and even if it isn't should be something the coaching staff attempts. To show such an astonishing lack of faith in your players from week 1 sets a tone that can be detrimental to the team's growth. Big con in this area.
ADJUSTMENTS (PUSH): The last few years, the Raiders' coaches were probably the worst in all of football at making adjustments as the game went on. This of course manifested itself in many fourth quarter collapses that cost us a playoff spot. Last night? We saw about the same horrendous lack of adjustments as years past. Coaches weren't able to find a way to dial up the pressure on Rivers on defense, or to dial up anything to gain yards in chunks on offense. Furthermore from an adjustments standpoint, after the first two botched punts wouldn't you logically try something different on the third? It seemed like the coaches only had one idea for each area of the game, and didn't know what to do once the Chargers figured it out. For most team, this area would be a con, but since it's exactly as terrible as last year it's par for the course for us.
DISCIPLINE (PRO): First off, I'm personally not going to count the punt problems as that was something outside of the coaches' control (except maybe having somebody else trained as an emergency long snapper). Penalties were down from the last few years (6 last night as opposed to an average of 10 per game), and more importantly, we did not see the egregious blowing of assignments that killed the Raiders in years past. Players seemed to be more or less in position consistently throughout the game . This simple fact contributed to what looks like it will be a consistent VASTLY improved run defense. Guys weren't trying to make hero plays. Props to the coaching staff in this area.
PREPARATION (CON): The Raiders did not seem particularly prepared for this game. Other than the very first drive, it looked like the coaches only came to the game with one tool in the bag in every facet of the game. There didn't seem to be any contingency plans for when stuff went wrong. This points to a lack in preparation that was worse than previous years (remember last year we were able to hold on and win the game that JC went down last year which speaks to coaches being somewhat prepared for the situation). From a preparation standpoint, it is damning when you allow your team to be completely sunk by the most non-descript position on the field. Having no backup plan for a long snapper injury? Not having considered the fact that you might just want to find another person that can fill in ably when needed? Do you think the Patriots would have the same thing happen if their long snapper got hurt? Con in this area.
Overall: CON (2 pro, 1 push, 3 con): For now, the coaching is worse than it was in the past couple years. Thankfully, there is room for improvement. If the coaches are as smart as we are led to believe they are, they will learn from the comedy of errors this week and improve going forward. And for heavens' sake, when you're down by seven and struggling on offense, you GO FOR IT when you're on the ONE YARD LINE! What's the worst that can happen?
Let me know what you think about my stances, as well as anything I might have forgotten or omitted! Hopefully if the discussion is good we can revisit this every week.