This team had the rug pulled out from under it before the season even started. The air was sucked out of the building with the trade of Khalil Mack to Chicago and they never caught their breath. Now six games into the season, the exodus has begun.
Players have begun finding their way out of Oakland and the team is doing their best to oblige. First Derrick Johnson requested and was granted his release. If you’ll remember correctly, he came to Oakland talking of championship aspirations. A few games in he was on the bench of one of the worst defenses in the league, watching this team go nowhere.
Just prior to that game, reports had the Raiders shopping Amari Cooper. Gruden denied he was shopping him, adding that Cooper was going to be a big part of the Raiders’ offense going forward.
A week later, as the team comes out of its bye week, Amari Cooper is traded to the Cowboys and a few hours later a groin injury that was thought to have Marshawn Lynch miss a month, became a trip to injured reserve.
It turns out Cooper wanted to be traded, according to Marcus Thompson of The Athletic.
Coop shares an agent with Khalil Mack. The thinking is that Joel Segal and Cooper saw the writing on the wall that the former Pro Bowl receiver would suffer the same fate as Mack when it came time to get an extension. That along with the crumbled morale of the locker room and the clear and present signs of a major rebuild meant the 24-year-old wanted out.
Like fleeing a sinking ship.
There is expected to be more exits before long. Former top pick Karl Joseph looks like the most obvious trade bait. But from the sounds of things, there are plenty of unhappy Raiders to choose from right now.
Just after the ugly 27-3 loss to the Seahawks in London, the first thing out of Bruce Irvin’s mouth before being asked a question was “We lost but I got a beautiful wife to go home to.” A statement that seemed somewhat odd, even for Irvin, but it makes more sense with that same report from Thompson.
Hope doesn’t live in the Raiders’ locker room. It’s been gone for a few weeks. Maybe it would’ve stuck around had they pulled out two or three of those recent losses. But they didn’t. And the reasons they didn’t pull out those games are the reasons there is no hope left.
Now they have a locker room full of players who feel like they are fodder for the all-powerful coach with the 10-year, $100 million contract. Or young players who just can’t seem to lure the pleasing eye of the coach.
Hope that Gruden would deliver on his promise to bring championship football to Oakland before the team bolted for Las Vegas was lost with Mack’s ouster. Since then faith in Derek Carr has also been lost.
Raiders headquarters is not the best space for Carr. The belief in him has deteriorated, perhaps to irreparable levels. Team sources describe a fractured relationship between Carr and his teammates, mostly because confidence in him has waned. It certainly didn’t help when film showed what looked like him crying after being sacked and injuring his arm. They saw his face. They heard his whimper. They witnessed him explain on the sidelines. They assuredly watched it again in film session. It’s hard to see how Carr can lead this team again.
There are already rumblings about Carr being a sitting duck. If the whispers are accurate, the Raiders have already concluded that Carr is not the quarterback of the future and the question is how do they go about moving on. His game is marked by a mental fragility that doesn’t inspire confidence.
Those are harsh words, but they are hard to argue. His 2016 season is looking more and more like an anomaly that took place at just the right time to get him his big extension. Every other season of his career, he has shown an utter lack of poise; dancing around, throwing off his back foot, not leading his receivers on deep balls, etc.
Gruden has said Carr is safe. Sure, he said Mack would be signed and that he was not shopping Coop and that he was going to be a big part of the Raiders offense too, but it appears he does intend to hold onto Carr... at least for now.
After the season, anything goes. And which way he goes will probably depend heavily on how the rest of this season goes down.