A lot of veteran players were added to this squad in the off-season. Many of them were given up by their former teams, usually because the teams thought their performance had dipped or they simply wanted to get younger. The Raiders scooped them up to have a veteran presence, many of whom have been on Super Bowl teams so they know what it takes to win consistently.
At this point, for these Raiders, ‘consistently' doesn't even come into play. They just want a win. As the losses pile up, players and coaches more and more turn to the veterans on the team to step up and lead whether by words or by example.
"The group that I have in there of veteran players are really, really good pros," said Tony Sparano. "Obviously they're good pros, they've been in this league a long time and that's not by mistake. I don't worry about those guys that way. I just really want them to feel a win. I want them to feel some form of payback for the amount that they've put in right now. I think once they do that and we get a win like that, some good things will start to happen."
Feeling a win is not something some of these vets have had for a while. Tops on that list is Antonio Smith who has not been on the winning end in 20 games dating back to last season with the Texans. Then Charles Woodson who was with the Raiders last season so he's seen 12-straight losses. Donald Penn is not far off of that, having lost 12 of his last 13 games dating back to last season with the Buccaneers.
That being said, most of these veterans have been on teams who have won and been playoff teams. They've run out of answers as to how to pull the Raiders out of this tailspin.
"I don't know. I can't put one finger on it," said Carlos Rogers. "Like I said, in these games, we're killing ourselves with penalties. We, defensively, are not getting off the field on third down enough. Offensively, at times, we don't move the chains enough. I don't know. We can't use firing the coach as a distraction because, like I said, you can see how we play. We always give ourselves a chance to win. We've just got to find a way to make that play and continue to stack up wins."
"I don't know, man," Antonio Smith echoed. "I need to watch the film. It's like one of those things where like, you don't know what the problem is. Each week you're going in trying to fix something and each week you wonder why it aint working. Just got to wait until I see the film . . . it's like at that point, what can I do? What's wrong? How do we need to change? Whatever that is?"
"I feel like guys are confident going into the game," said Charles Woodson. "I felt like we were confident the last two weeks going into the game. I really felt that, really felt good about what we were doing going into the game and we come up short. I don't know how to take that, feeling the way you feel during the week, feeling the way you feel coming into the game and not being able to get it done. I'm not sure where to go with it at this point."
Woodson (38), Rogers (33), and Smith (33) are three of the most veteran players on this squad. They have all three been in the league for a long time, and therefore are a source for the younger players who may not know what it's like to pick up a team that is down. So, if the vets are at a loss, the whole team is lost.
Interim head coach Tony Sparano is trying to pick that up and add some clarity.
"Naturally, the first instinct is to turn around and think, ‘Where do we go from here? What do we do? How do we do this?'," said Sparano. "I think what we have to be able to identify is are we getting better? Are there areas where we're getting better? Are we getting better at the things that we're emphasizing right now? There are some areas there that we're getting better in. . . I can identify with a lot of things to the players right now. I can identify a lot of different scenarios to them that we're getting better in. We just need to get the result. We're going to keep working at it until we get the result."
"Right now there is a great belief in that room that we're going to get this thing turned around and that we are getting better. It's just they don't have the tangible evidence, which is a win. That's the thing that disappoints me the most right now. I just really want them to feel what that's like, to win one of those kind of games."
There are those who seem to truly believe that, despite not knowing exactly HOW to fix the problem, that it WILL be fixed and, as Derek Carr said "Good time are coming."
When/if those good times arrive, these players may be just as surprised as the rest of us.