Two straight wins over two really bad teams making terrible decisions at the quarterback position had the Raiders feeling fairly good about themselves. They weren’t pretty wins, by Derek Carr’s admission, but they counted just the same.
Coming away with a W can have a way of glossing over a lot of the concerns in that game, let alone previous games. So, what of the game just before those two?
That was the game in Mexico City against the Patriots in which the Raiders were down 30-0 by the end of the third quarter.
After that loss, head coach Jack Del Rio decided it was time to pull the cord and fire Ken Norton Jr, a move that has seemed inevitable for a while now, especially with John Pagano onboard as an easy replacement.
I mean, come on, though, they were facing the Patriots, who have the number one offense in the league. Were the Raiders really expected to be able to keep them from scoring? What they WERE expected to do was in some way keep pace with them on offense. While the Patriots had the number one offense, they also had the NFL’s worst defense. So, the Raiders defense performed pretty much as expected. It was the offense that let the team down.
The problem there is the offense is under the control of first-time coordinator, Todd Downing. Norton had two and a half years to find out if he could do the job and his contract was up after this season. To fire Downing after 10 games would be either seen as too hasty or admitting a mistake. So, they made Norton the sacrificial lamb, and moved forward with back-to-back games in Oakland to try and work out the kinks.
Two cushy home games against the Paxton Lynch led Broncos and the Geno Smith led Giants acts as a buffer between the game in Mexico City game and the one Sunday in Kansas City. A pallet cleanser, if you will. But the next swig was just as bitter as the previous one.
Once the Raiders were away from their friendly confines against a football team with any semblance of competence at the quarterback position, they were trounced again. This time not by a 7-2 squad having won five straight, but by a floundering team having lost four-straight and six of their last seven.
When the Raiders faced the Chiefs before, the tables were turned. The Chiefs were 5-1, the Raiders 2-4, having lost four straight. And the game played out like offensive coordinator Downing had been hiding all the best plays for when the Raiders faced the team they hadn’t beaten in two seasons. Now it appears like he either used up all his tricks in that first meeting or he simply outsmarted himself in the last.
Pointing the finger is common after losses like this. And after the second loss like this in four games that finger pointing gets more aggressive. After the seventh loss this season, all of which the Raiders once elite offense scored in the teens, perhaps more than finger pointing is needed.
Does something happen? Does Jack Del Rio fire a second coordinator in three weeks?
Del Rio said after firing Norton that “Nobody should feel comfortable.” A performance like the Raiders had in Kansas City, especially in a game that was so critical to their already slim playoff hopes is just the type of thing that you would expect to test that statement.
If Downing did get the ax, once again it would be an Assistant Head Coach more than likely taking over the play calling duties. Long time NFL offensive line coach Mike Tice, who was a coordinator for just one season in 2012 with the Bears would take over.
Tice has been the mastermind behind the Raiders offensive line that was arguably the best in football last season, but which has struggled this season with new blocking schemes. He may not be Derek Carr’s buddy like Downing, but perhaps that just what Carr needs right now. Or it could just be another Hail Mary staff move that would make no difference whatsoever and the Raiders would be just as well riding out the remainder of the season with the staff as it is now.
Then, of course, the question is how much responsibility does Jack Del Rio deserve in all of this? It was his decision to let Bill Musgrave go in favor of Downing. It was his decision to keep Ken Norton Jr. It was he and Reggie McKenzie who ignored the defense in free agency and relied so heavily on their draft picks to be the answer. It is he who consistently has not held his players, coaches, or himself accountable for their failings.
Ok, Del Rio. No one is comfortable. Now what?
What move do you think the Raiders should make?
This poll is closed
Fire Todd Downing now
Fire Jack Del Rio now
Re-hire Ken Norton Jr just so they can fire him again
Finish out the season and re-evaluate