Problems vs. Symptoms - What Is Plaguing Our Beloved Raiders This Season?

Hey all - it's been a while since I wrote one of my long-winded posts about our beloved Oakland Los Angeles Oakland Las Vegas Raiders. I've had some ideas in my head as to why this team is where it is, and where it is going. I still see a lot of posts that talk about what "the problem" is, as though there is only one problem. While I've said in all my previous posts that we have many problems, some of our problems are actually symptoms of bigger problems. In this post, I want to discuss some major problems and the symptoms that result directly from these problems. Much of the time, those symptoms become problems that themselves have symptoms that trickle down from those problems, creating a downward spiral that will affect the on-field product for years to come. As usual, this is a long one, so there is a TL;DR at the end.

One thing before you read this: My purpose for writing these posts is to try to "dig a little deeper" under the surface of why things are as they are. You might agree with my observations and my conclusions, or you may agree with my observations and not my conclusions - or you might disagree with both. But one thing I will not accept - don't fucking accuse me of pushing a narrative. In my last post, someone did that and it's just not something I do. I don't care about narratives or peoples' opinions or anything like that. All I care about is facts and data and I'll come to my own conclusions, thank you. I admit that some of my observations are conjecture, but they're educated conjecture basic on a logical analysis of the interconnectedness of every facet of an NFL football team from the owner to the fucking towel boy. Narratives occupy the surface of an argument and seldom investigate how each area of an operation affects the gestalt product. If you think you're reading a narrative, you're not. I pay no attention to narratives, but if I happen to make an argument that is similar to, or lends weight to a narrative, maybe there's a reason other than I'm pushing that narrative. Eat me!

I. Problem: Mark Davis' being the owner coupled with his lack of football knowledge not being offset by his executive hires (people above the GM)

While encompassing the spirit of his father's dedication to diversity and inclusion, the people he has hired don't seem to have the capacity to advise Mark Davis against poor executive decision making - or perhaps they are the ones advising him poorly. Now, I don't know much about Mark Davis besides what has been said about him in the press and on social media - bowl haircut, lifelong bachelor, poorest owner in the NFL. And let me extend him a modicum of credit for his Las Vegas Aces winning the championship last year, something they will likely repeat this year. I don't know how difficult a feat that is in the WNBA - probably not as difficult as winning a super bowl - but for what it's worth, I think he deserves a smidgen of credit. Outside of that, and considering his self-admitted lack of depth of football knowledge, I'm not aware of this man's business acumen. He's an owner not because he was a great businessman but because his father was, and he inherited the keys to the Davis Kingdom because he was their sole progeny. I'm sure he must have learned a few things in order to keep those keys, but when you make mistakes with a product like an NFL Football franchise, those mistakes will be on display for all to see. But some of these mistakes are those that, were you or I in charge, we would have never made. Take the following scenario, assuming (not that I am suggesting that it was) that moving on from Rich Bisaccia after the 2021 season was the right thing to do:

You're in the market for a new head coach. You have a slick-talking confident candidate with a winning pedigree as offensive coordinator, but with a fuck-ton of red flags. Those red flags are:

  1. A previous two-year stint as a head coach that was characterized by a small winning percentage, blowout losses, the worst record that team ever had in his second year, alienation of players, and whose first move as head coach was to trade away arguably their best QB prospect since Elway. In addition, he was caught cheating - filming opponents' practices in year 2 (thanks to raidersz28 for the reminder), which calls into question any wins his team did get up to that point. Let's assume you allow that this former coaching tenure was over a decade old, and that this candidate has learned from his mistakes. You feel confident he won't make the same mistakes with your beloved Raiders.

  2. A recent red flag was that the candidate accepted a position as head coach of another organization, and then, inexplicably, vacated that position, leaving that team with slim pickings as all the quality head coaches had already been signed. You could argue that maybe he had a disagreement with management/ownership on how that team should be run. But two red flags taken together would put me on yellow alert when considering this man to run my football team.

  3. Then you consider that all of this candidate's success as offensive coordinator is tied to one quarterback and one only - the best quarterback ever to play the game. Does that not even get you thinking that perhaps his success as OC is because of this QB? Or let's pose this question differently: has he been OC of another organization where this man was not the QB? Sure, we see success with other QBs on his team, but has he succeeded as OC of a different team? For instance, when this GOAT QB was injured and their backup took them to a 10-6 record (which pretty much cinched his job as HC of his first team), and during a 4-game suspension of their star QB for a suspected conspiracy involving inadequate inflation levels, both the backup and third-string QBs won games, you could argue that these successes were sufficient proof of the OC's talent. But how much of that is attributable to the OC? How much power did the HC lord over him? Would he have the same success in a completely different system?

  4. Turns out, he would not. He had a 1-year stint as OC of a different team (AND was also the quarterbacks coach of that team!) right after he left his first head coaching gig, and it was a disaster as the team finished 2-14. One might look past this because the starting quarterback was injured and the rest of the team wasn't very good, and as OC he likely didn't have much of a say in personnel decisions. That said, when taken with all of the above, and considering this candidate's status as a self-professed offensive guru, did he really learn from his mistakes? (Thanks to Silv3rder for the info.)

  5. All of the disciples of the candidate's HC under whom he experienced success have been monumental failures as HC's elsewhere.

Think about all of that. WOULD YOU HAND THIS CANDIDATE A FUCKING FOUR YEAR-CONTRACT? And would you further hand another contract of similar length to a GM hire who has never before been a GM? It's not that I think he shouldn't have been given another chance. It's that his leash should have been MUCH, MUCH shorter. Sometimes we take a player that had success in the past, but perhaps regressed or suffered a few injury-plagued seasons and we give them a chance to see if they can experience their earlier success with the Raiders, usually in the form of a one-year contract. We call that a "prove-it" deal because if that player proves that they can regain their old form, then they will get a new contract either with us or another team (usually with another team because we suck ass at talent retention). BUT MCDANIELS HAS NEVER HAD SUCCESS AS A HEAD COACH. And you give this ass-clown a FOUR YEAR DEAL?

And where was the team president at the time, VP of football operations, and the rest of the goddam executive board when he made these decisions? How does an entire executive board think that, under these circumstances, hiring McDaniels and Ziegler was a good idea? Didn't anyone try to talk sense into him? Did they convince him to do this? We knew it was a terrible move and most of us have no executive business experience at all! In fact, from some of the posts I've read here, many of us are barely fucking literate.

Conclusion: being unable to cut bait with a terrible head coach/GM combination is a symptom of a much larger problem: Mark Davis' giving large, lengthy contracts to unproven leaders and making decisions with an executive board that is, at best, not competent/confident to object to these decisions, and at worst, complicit in them.

II. Problem: Misuse of personnel and poor play calling

Sometimes a symptom of one problem is a problem that itself has symptoms. For this, I direct you toward a comment that was made on another fanpost recently.

Loss Rant (L2)

Look at the comments section. In the third paragraph from raiderz28. It says:

Jimmy stares down his primary receiver, if he isn't open Jimmy checks down. On some occasion dude will actually look for a 2nd read, he never gets to his third read before looking to check down.

It's funny, I've read that somewhere before. Oh yeah, I remember, just take "Jimmy" out and replace it with "Derek" and that's largely what people were saying in 2022.

Before 2022, both QBs were predisposed to the checkdown, but it was a function of facing heavy pressure - going through progressions was not a knock on either of them. That doesn't mean they were 100% - no QB is. But when they had time, both QBs reliably went through their reads to find the best option. I could be wrong, but I feel this is the problem of a coach not using his QBs to their strengths. One of Carr's strengths was his ability to read defenses and change plays at the LOS. McDaniels would not allow him to do that. One of Garoppolo's strengths was his coolness in the pocket. I'm not saying he was the second coming of Joe Montana, but I've never seen this guy so scared. Now he's leading the league in INTs, and doing pretty much exactly the same things that Carr was vilified for in 2022 (with the exception of fumbling on sacks). Do you not see a trend here?

McDaniels is misusing his personnel, not calling plays that make use of their strengths, and it's not just the QB. Remember in Renfrow's rookie year when he started off slowly until he showed Gruden how to use him, and then he became known as 3rd and Renfrow? What did Gruden say? "Oh, this is how I need to use Renfrow. Let me do that from now on." Now, before you Gruden haters take out your pitchforks and come after me, I am not saying that Gruden was a great head coach (but I'm also not not saying it... lol). I'm simply saying that Gruden was competent enough not to ignore it when a problem's solution fell into his lap. With 3 years of using Renfrow successfully available to view on game film for every coach to see, McDaniels is back to misusing him. Renfrow has played in 13 games over the course of McDaniels' tenure and had 39 receptions for 370 yards and 2 touchdowns. I took 25 random samples of 13 games over the previous 3 years on or after his "breakout game," and I got an average of 68 receptions for 715 yards and 6 touchdowns. There are more factors at play here, but when you look at the box scores, you see the disturbing trend of Davante Adams largely being the Raiders' sole offensive weapon. We cannot and will not win if that continues to be the case. McDaniels has such a fucking ego (undeservedly) that he doesn't seem to be looking inward for the blame, or looking at all for the solution.

Conclusion: The fact that our last 2 QBs are one-dimensional and our other competent personnel are having terrible stat lines are symptoms that are a direct result of the problem of a coach misusing his personnel and making terrible play calls. (Going for it on 4th and 1 early in the week 3 game, but kicking a field goal with less than 3 minutes left when we need a TD to win that game, should be sufficient proof that his play calling has NOT improved.)

III. Problem: inadequate player development

Now, I don't want to beat to death the notion of how poor drafting is a symptom of the problem of this and previous GMs being unable to evaluate talent properly and address our team's needs through the draft. I don't need to repeat myself there, it's on my previous postings. But there's also the problem of player development. When we talk about player development, we allow that some players may need time to improve. Tyree Wilson comes to mind; I, along with many others, believe Jalen Carter should have been our draft pick. But there's also a belief that Tyree Wilson's struggles are a function of being thrust into action amid the Chandler Jones situation, and being out of shape and not fully recovered from what is likely a more serious foot injury than previously reported. But what are Wilson's prospects for development as a Las Vegas Raider? I swear to GOD if I see one more player leave the Raiders and be hugely successful elsewhere I'm gonna lose my shit! Look at what Keisean Nixon did in Green Bay last year with OUR former special teams coach! Look at Shelby Harris and Arden Key and Mo Hurst and Nick Morrow balling out with their new teams. Maybe not all of them are superstars but they are contributing far more to their new teams than they EVER did here. Can you name ONE PLAYER that we have had in the last 5 years who came to the Raiders and did better? Perryman in 2021, he's the only one, and in 2022, his stat line returned to his old form! However, I can name a fuck-ton of free-agent signings who did worse! While drafting talent should be the responsibility of the GM (and should NEVER be in the purview of the coach unless that coach has some GM clout, like Belichick and Reid) developing that talent is on the coaches. When we let players walk out of here after an average tenure at best with the team, and they immediately upgrade their new team, it's due either to an inability to develop or use the player properly, or an indication that your team is so superior to other teams that your most average player will help lesser teams improve. Any argument in favor of the latter must be met with inquiries on where I can get drugs of such potency that they make that argument viable. And just remember, while there is certainly such a thing as mentorship and development of coaches, that usually happens early in the coach's career. I think it's safe to say that McDaniels' development is over; if he is still making boneheaded play calls like he did last year, it's never going to change.

Conclusion: unmaximized, undeveloped talent is a symptom of the problem of position coaches who seem to be getting hired without regard to their ability to develop players.

IV. Problem: Expecting that the size of a contract will be commensurate with the player's on-field performance

This one is on the fans. In the abstract, we all know this isn't true, and we see signs of it every year - a player gets a phat contract and disappears or gets injured and is out for the season. But how many times in 2017 and 2018 did we hear "Derek is getting 25 million a year. He'd better start playing like it!"? These inexplicably ignorant statements got louder in 2022 when he was in the 30M range and he was even worse than in 2017. But no matter how much you want it to be true, the contract does not determine the performance of the player. If, for some reason, the 5-year, $125M contract that Carr signed ahead of the 2017 season was a 5-year, $50M contract, would that have made his level of play in 2017 acceptable? Would it have made him play worse? Would a $250M contract have made him play better? No! With the exception of incentives, you sign the contract with no provisions on performance. You get that money whether or not you perform. More money isn't going to make you a better player. But it seems like many of you thought that he should suddenly "grow" skills that he never had before! If you expect something more from a person than they can give you, then YOU are the problem! Let me give you a ridiculous example:

Let's say I was hired by a filmmaker to be in a movie on the belief that I have a vagina that must appear on camera. They're gonna pay me $10M to be in this movie because they think I might have ladyparts. When I read the contract, no part of that contract stipulates that I must actually have a vagina. That's the expectation, but I'm not being paid for the result - I'm being paid to accept the role and to be willing to drop my drawers on camera. I sign the contract and begin working. When it comes time to show off my vagina, it is revealed that I have a penis (an unimpressively-sized one, but a penis nonetheless.) Should everyone be pissed off at me? I can't magically make a vagina appear. Even if I have my sex reassigned it's not going to look like one of those pretty ones you'd want to film. And do you think I'm going to turn down $10M when having the vagina is not even expressly stated as one of the requirements for me to earn that money? The person who we should be pissed at is the one who wrote the contract, not me. But that's how contracts are structured in the NFL. You often get large sums of guaranteed money before you've earned it. That's not a recipe for success in any business, but you'd be hard-pressed to expect people to put their health in jeopardy without a significant up-front investment. As fans, despite the fact that we KNOW this fully well, we ACT like it's the other way around. These expectations absolutely affect how athletes are portrayed in the media, which can negatively impact their play.

Conclusion: the problem of fans expecting players to be something they're not based on the size of their contracts (or for any reason, really) leads to expectations of players that cannot be met, which carries further symptoms such as Carr Stans v. Carr Haters, negative media portrayals and negatively impacted play.

V: Lack of a "home field" puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to close games.

It's no secret that if you suck ass as a team and you get blown out all the time, then it probably doesn't matter whether you're playing on the road or at home - you're gonna get blown out. But home field advantage can make a huge difference - being quiet during field goal attempts, being loud when the QB of the opposing team is communicating plays to the other offensive players, not cheering when the visiting team scores, getting the team riled up when the home team scores - all of these things contribute to a victory when the score is close. The converse is also true - lacking them might contribute to a close loss. Would we have beaten the Squealers in week 3 had Allegiant been packed with Silver and Black instead of Black and Yellow? Probably not - after all, we still had McDipshit calling plays. But in the future, if for some reason we wind up with a competent head coach, lack of a home field advantage could cost us a game or two, and that is something that should NEVER happen. And we will never have home field advantage in Allegiant Stadium. All of our games, except for those in LA, will forever be road games. There are too many fans of the visiting team at Allegiant (for reasons I have explained in previous posts) and given how much more the money the Raiders organization is worth in Las Vegas, I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Conclusion: Losing winnable games is a symptom of the larger problem of previously mentioned problems above in conjunction with a home stadium where we're essentially the visiting team, a problem that will not be resolved as long as we're in Vegas. I would never have dreamed of a home field that actually hinders the team's success, but if you've ever flown Allegiant, you know they're an entirely appropriate sponsor.

TL;DR / Overall conclusions:

a) We are fucked until we can get out of McDaniels' and Ziegler's contracts

b) Even when we do, Mark Davis and his E-board will just hire a new incompetent GM/ coaching duo that will hire more coaches that can't develop players, all of which will result in a continued shit product.

c) Fans: temper your fucking expectations

d) We're screwed because of how much money the city of Las Vegas shelled out to buy us the stadium. It would be nice if we could sell it to the A's and go back to Oakland, but that would never happen because the team's value is much higher in Las Vegas, and even a doofus like Mark Davis knows it.