A 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers has put a huge sense of hopelessness around the Oakland Raiders. It didn’t even feel this hopeless when they lost 52-0 to the Los Angeles Rams in a season they started 0-10 before finishing 3-13 in 2014. At least then there were big hopes in the futures 1st-round pick Khalil Mack and 2nd-round pick Derek Carr.
The last time there was such a sense of hopelessness in Raider Nation was 2006, when the Raiders went 2-14. The 2018 team actually has a few similarities to the 2006 team but in many ways it actually looks worse.
Deceased owner Al Davis re-hired head coach Art Shell in 2006 after wrongfully firing him following a 9-7 season in 1994. From 1989-1994, Shell went 54-38, to the playoffs three out of his six years and finished under .500 (7-9) only once. But you can’t have the past back so re-hiring Shell 12 years later didn’t work.
Shell brought back offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, who had been running a bed and breakfast the previous six years. Then the Raiders offense set all-time franchise records for futility, leading to a 2-14 season and Shell getting fired.
The 2018 team re-hired head coach Jon Gruden after wrongfully trading him following a 10-6 playoff season in 2001. Gruden went 48-26 and to the playoffs in two of his four years as Raiders head coach from 1998-2001. And so far in his first year back in the Raiders’ director’s chair, he’s been ineffective just like Shell at 1-7 midway through the year. The offense hasn’t been good but it’s the defense that’s hitting the all-time lows the 2006 offense hit.
This year’s Raiders look worse because they’re bad on both sides of the ball, ranked No. 26 in defense and No. 20 on offense. In 2006 Raiders fans could at least look forward to seeing the defense until they got tired from the offense leaving them all the field all day. They were ranked No. 3 overall and No. 1 against the pass. It doesn’t feel good to say this but this year’s team isn’t as competitive as it was in 2006.
The Raiders’ 31-point loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 9 was the most lopsided of Gruden’s career. In that game, they allowed the 49ers to score 34 straight points. That’s the most they’ve allowed in a row since that infamous 52-0 blowout to the Rams.
That loss was also the fourth straight by 14-plus points for the first time in franchise history. The longest single-season streak in the NFL since the merger is six games. The Raiders have been outscored 55-3 over their last five quarters so things are getting worse, not better.
Another difference between 2018 and 2006 is the teams that are blowing them out. In their first two games in 2006, the Raiders lost 27-0 to the Los Angeles Chargers (14-2) and 28-6 to the Baltimore Ravens (13-3). The 10-6 New York Jets got them 23-3 while the Rams (8-8) had the worst record of any team to blow them out (20-0).
This year, the Raiders are getting blown out by a bunch of fleas. The Seattle Seahawks were 2-3 before blowing the Raiders out 27-3. The 49ers were 1-7 before blowing them out. Getting blown out by a 2006 Chargers team that went 14-2 is one thing. Getting blown out by a 1-7 49ers team with a third-string QB is unacceptable.
Whatever Gruden’s plan is for rebuilding the Raiders better be good. Owner Mark Davis can’t just fire him after one year the way his father fired Shell. The Las Vegas Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year so the Raiders better improve quick. Like Los Angeles, there are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas so the 65,000-seat stadium won’t be full during Gruden’s tenure if he doesn’t get it right soon.