Fourteen seconds. Depending on what we’re talking about, that can be a long time or no time at all. In this case, it felt like an eternity.
That’s how much time passed between when Jack Del Rio was asked a question and when he finally answered. The question was in regards to the first two big plays of the Raiders’ loss to the Ravens Sunday.
The first big play was the first play of the game in which Mike Wallace got behind Sean Smith for a 52-yard catch up the left sideline. Four plays later, the Ravens scored the touchdown to go up 7-0.
The next big play was the Raiders’ third play on offense in which Jared Cook caught the EJ Manuel pass, attempted to switch it to his outside hand and had it knocked out. Jimmy Smith recovered it along the left sideline and returned it 47 yards for the score to put the Ravens up 14-0 less than four minutes into the game.
The question was if that is just how these things go sometimes or if the Raiders weren’t ready.
To say Del Rio’s pause was pregnant wouldn’t cover it. The steely gaze he had was holding back a lot of frustration he just wasn’t able to express in this setting. A few seconds went by. He reached for his water bottle, took a swig, put the cap back on and sat it down.
At some point people started to wonder if he was going to respond to the question at all. The only sound you could hear was a couple camera clicks. Then after what felt like 15 minutes, Del Rio said only “Clearly not what we wanted there.”
That steely gaze was not reserved for media members who ask questions he may prefer not to answer. He gave the same look to his team in the locker room.
“He took his time. He paused and looked at everybody,” said EJ Manuel. “I kind of felt like he looked every man in the eye to see what kind of team we had, what kind of make-up we had. You know, we’re 2-3 after 5 weeks of the season. There’s tons of football left to play. I really think that’s what he did, just kind of looked every man in the eye and wanted to see how we would respond in this moment.”
Two weeks ago, we were all shocked when the Raiders played terribly in Washington. Fingers were pointed all over the place, most of which were pure speculation, some of which entirely unwarranted and unfair. There was even a conspiracy theory which I won’t justify by even addressing it.
Then came a similarly terrible performance in Denver. But even then, there was this feeling that the Raiders would rebound once they returned home against a similarly struggling team in the Ravens.
They did not. And the issues they had were all over the place, only a few of which could be placed on EJ Manuel who was replacing the injured Derek Carr. Not to mention Carr was having a rough time in the other games before he left.
So, here we are. In basic scientific theory you need three instances to prove something. It’s not unlike a child and a hot stove. The child touches it to test ‘Is it hot?’ and is burned. They touch it again the next day ‘Is it still hot?’ and is burned again. Then checks it a again ‘Is it always hot?’ and is burned a third time.
We’ve been burned thrice consecutively. It’s time to accept that until proven otherwise, this is who the Raiders are. There is no more looking back at last season’s high flying offense or even the play of their first two games this season.
“To me it’s a confidence thing,” Del Rio said of the Raiders issues now, specifically on defense.
“I think you’d have to have a little bit of a question about the confidence level,” Del Rio continued. “You just went out and didn’t get it done three weeks in a row. To me it’s real simple. It’s a group of men, prideful men. We’ll get back in the saddle, get back to work.”
Those issues on defense include having no sacks on Joe Flacco, who had been sacked nine times in the first four games. More importantly, the Raiders defense doesn’t have a single interception over the first five games. They had 16 last season and led the league with a +16 turnover differential. They currently have a zero turnover differential, with just two forced fumbles on defense.
Bruce Irvin led the NFL last season with 6 forced fumbles. Khalil Mack was second with 5 forced fumbles. Neither has any this season. Irvin disagrees with his head coach’s assertion that they have lost confidence.
“I don’t think so,” said Irvin of the team losing confidence. “I think we’re just facing adversity right now. Coming into the year you all were telling us how good we was, how good we was. I don’t know if we believed it or not but it be like this. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a situation like this. It’s the 5th game. We have 11 more games. We have time to turn it around but it’s all about if we want or not. We have to come into work and take this shit serious or we’ll continue to lose.”
This is a crossroads for this team. As Irvin noted, everyone had such high expectations and they spent every game living up to that. That’s over. They haven’t been this consistently bad since 2014 when they started the season 0-10.
That 2014 team was starting from the ground up. They had to prove they could be competitive at all. That’s where we are now.
It’s time to stop asking why this supposedly talented team is not performing, because that is eliminating the ‘team’ aspect of this which encompasses every aspect of the game including game plan and knowing your role in it.
“Talent is nothing until you have everyone rowing in the same direction,” said right tackle Marshall Newhouse. “We need to get that straightened out.”
Building this team back up won’t be solved simply by their head coach giving them the look of a disapproving father. Self reflection is required.
“I think we need to challenge ourselves,” said safety Karl Joseph. “The coaches can prepare us as much as they can and the best they can but . . . we got to look ourselves in the mirror and look ourselves in the eye and see what we got to do better.”