Turn out the lights, the party is over. It was one hell of a year for the Oakland Raiders and if it wasn't for the injury to Derek Carr on Christmas Eve I truly believe this team would have been a Super Bowl contender. Unfortunately, nobody has invented a time machine to save Carr from the injury and as he went down so did the Raiders season.
It officially ended yesterday with a lackluster loss to the Houston Texans, but unofficially it really ended two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts. Connor Cook might just be a starting QB one day in the NFL, but for that to happen he is going to need to develop a lot further than where he is right now.
When your QB goes 18 of 45 passing, you probably didn't have a good game. That's the unfortunate situation the Raiders found themselves in yesterday, having their rookie QB throw the dang ball 45 times in his first ever game starting. Predictably, the Raiders lost the game pretty badly with a final score of 27-14.
It wasn't all on Connor Cook though, he simply did not get enough help from the “supporting” cast around him. The two star receivers he was throwing to combined for a measly 4 catches out of 16 targets for one thing. Sure, many of those targets were off throws but several big plays were simply dropped. One from Amari Cooper on a perfectly thrown long ball, one of the few the Raiders actually tried, and the worst being from Michael Crabtree when the Raiders had gotten the ball back after their first score.
That Crabtree drop could have changed the entire course of the game, it was the most unforgivable drop of the whole damn season. The Raiders had just had a good drive previously where they scored their touchdown and then the defense followed it up with a quick stop and the punt return had the Raiders starting field position near midfield. They had the momentum and the chance to at least tie the game, if not take the lead when Crabtree dropped that 2nd down pass.
The defense didn't do as bad as the score would have you think either, they just were out on the field for entirely too long thanks to a terrible offense. The Texans QB Brock Osweiler only had 14 completions for 168 yards and their star running back Lamar Miller had 31 carries for only 73 yards. If it hadn't been for the completely ineffective offense the Raiders still could have won this game, and if they had Derek Carr there is not much doubt that they would have won.
However, a big part of the ineffective offense was associated to the cowardly game plan going into this one. Everyone knew that Connor Cook was starting his first game and that the coaches would try their best to protect him but the downright cowardly playcalling right off the bat did not protect Cook like it was supposed to. No, it hung him out to dry instead right from the beginning of the game.
Instead of showing to the Texans that the Raiders would still try to test their defense, they ran the ball right into the teeth of the defense and threw short screen passes on both their first two drives. The Texans defense is probably the best in the league and the ultra conservative start to this game played right into their hands and let them pin their ears back on the rookie QB.
It's no surprise that Jadaveon Clowney was able to intercept the ball on the Raiders 2nd drive on a terrible screen play call on a 3rd down. The Texans might as well have been in the huddle with the Raiders on that play because they knew exactly what was coming because the Raiders coaching staff had no balls when it came to their rookie QB. That interception directly lead to a touchdown on an easy 5 yard touchdown run by Miller, and Oakland was never able to overcome the mistake.
Connor Cook did finally start getting into a rhythm late in the game, both times the Raiders went with the no huddle offense he actually played very well. However, they too rarely gave him the reigns to be able to play well and by that time of the game it would have taken a miracle finish to win.
Oh well though, the season is over now and there is nothing we can do about it. Instead of concentrating on what could have been our time is better spent pondering what might be for the future of this team. This was a sad way to finish a great year, but this was a great year anyway without a shadow of a doubt. The Oakland Raiders are back and they are going to be here for a long time with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack leading this team.
They now are going to have another Reggie McKenzie draft and maybe another shot at a key free agent or two to help beef up the depth of the team and they will have their MVP caliber QB back next year. It's going to be a long, hard wait throughout the off-season like it always is but it's going to be one that has a lot of earned optimism around it.
This is no longer optimism based on potential, it's optimism based off of what the Raiders just accomplished and what they could have accomplished if not for losing Derek Carr and then also Donald Penn before their biggest game in well over a decade. This season is over but the perennial powerhouse of the Raiders is only just beginning.