Already twice this season the Oakland Raiders have been badly embarrassed on a national stage; Once on Sunday Night Football in Washington in Week 3 and again on Sunday against the Patriots in Mexico City. This past game wasn’t prime time television but it was the CBS game of the week being broadcasted throughout most of the US.
The 2017 season, no matter how it ends, will go down as one of the most painful and disappointing seasons in recent memory for Raider Nation. This was a team that had Super Bowl aspirations and now is struggling to just compete on Sundays.
The lack of victories starts from the top and trickles down. It starts with the owner, Mark Davis, not holding others accountable all the way through Jack Del Rio and his staff.
Jack Del Rio
Davis decided to extend Del Rio this offseason despite the fact he has never won a division championship and has had one winning season as a head coach since 2008.
Oakland isn’t out of the playoff picture. But that says more about the AFC than it does the Raiders. Also, just by coaching alone, they would get demolished in the first round of the playoffs if they do somehow grab a wildcard spot.
The coaching staff has three defensive coordinators, Ken Norton Jr., Del Rio and John Pagano, yet the defense is among the worst in the league and has been so since the moment Del Rio arrived.
At the end of the day, Del Rio is responsible for his coaching staff. If they don’t perform it is on him and he has had two offseasons to fire someone and replace them with a better coach. But he has shockingly kept Norton on his staff this entire time.
One could suggest giving Del Rio another chance with a new coordinator. By all means. That is probably what will happen considering Davis doesn’t have the money to fire Del Rio despite showing no ability to scheme, get his team prepared to play in must-win games, and hire quality coordinators.
His press conferences are just depressing to watch as he comes up with a plethora of excuses including having to travel to Mexico City, calling out the players not executing when he calls out the plays, citing injuries, claiming to be close, trying to find the team’s mojo, and mentioning the classic ‘we just have to get off the field’.
As a leader of an NFL team, the head coach has to be held liable and take the blame regardless if it is fair or not.
On Monday, it was more of the same from Del Rio.
“I think it’s close,” Del Rio said during Monday’s press conference when asked about the team making a run. “I think we’re capable. We just have to find that spark where it happens.”
Honestly, being close is on the coach. Everyone is talented and athletic in the NFL, but it is on the coaches to make the little things happen. It hasn’t happened this season and it won’t ever with Del Rio at the helm.
Even though Del Rio might not have much of a choice in the matter, the players aren’t held accountable. Seth Roberts played in 80 percent of the offense’s snaps despite having a crucial drop and costly fumble.
Reggie Nelson, who is way too slow to be starting and consistently gets beat deep, played every single defensive snap. Sean Smith even played 72 percent of the snaps.
If these players fumbled or performed this poorly under Bill Belichick, there is no question they would have been benched. At this point, what does the defense have to lose anyways? They already started Obi Melifonwu at cornerback in complete desperation.
Davis will be stuck with a major decision this offseason. If he truly holds those accountable in the organization and wants to keep a winning culture in Oakland (and then Las Vegas), he will move on from Del Rio.
Think about it, the Raiders have the highest paid offense in the league but only mustered eight points against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, per Spotrac. They also have one of the best young defensive players this league has seen in a decade in Khalil Mack, but the coaching staff is clueless on how to use him.
It’s black and white, Del Rio is Mark Jackson. Commend him for his job to turn around the franchise but one must understand that he isn’t talented enough to consistently win playoff games and ever win a Super Bowl. He isn’t a young coach still able to grow, for he has been a head coach for over a decade. He is what he is and it isn’t good enough.
If Davis doesn’t demand excellence from Del Rio, which he hasn’t yet by rewarding mediocrity in Del Rio’s four-year extension, the NFL will hold Davis accountable and eat him alive for his poor decisions by bringing more losing seasons to the Raiders’ organization.
Moreover, the Raiders have given up home games each of the last two seasons forcing Davis’ team to travel four and a half hours to play. New England came to town and took over the stadium making what could have been a neutral game, or even better a home game, into a road game.
Davis, during the week leading up to the team’s biggest game of the year, was parading around Vegas with a shovel in his hand playing it like a guitar instead of focusing on his franchise which was preparing to face Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Obviously, coaches aren't asking Davis for his input on the week leading up to the game, but he is still the leader of the organization.
It is hard to think that there was no impact on the team during the bye week with all the news surrounding Las Vegas. And, as we all know, Belichick will exploit even the smallest of advantages.
These are all Davis’ decisions that are hurting the team now. The NFL is the epitome of survival of the fittest. If an organization lacks accountability, like Oakland does, then it will be very difficult to consistently field a winning team.
The next few months will tell a lot
Over the next six games and this upcoming offseason, the true cracks in the organization’s structure will be revealed unless Davis surprises everyone by making a coaching change at the season’s end.
In 2016, the cracks were there, but Derek Carr was the super glue to keep the franchise together. This year, the injuries, poor coaching and the relocation saga were too much for Mack and Carr to overcome. The ineptitude has overpowered all else.
Davis also got himself a $1 billion handout from Las Vegas, so a few million dollars per year should not be an obstacle in a decision that will decide whether this team will be a perennial .500 team or Super Bowl contender with Carr.
If money is the deterrent, like many expect it to be, there will be no hope in 2018 unless Carr and Mack resemble the MVP’s like they did in 2016. But even then they weren’t a realistic threat to topple the Patriots.