I did a bit of travel over the holidays and so I had a lot of time sitting around in airports (and on the tarmac) to think about the disappointment of 2017 and how we got there. My personal philosophy on these kinds of things is that most people would like the answers to be simple and easy, but as with just about everything in life, few things actually are. Or another way to think of it is that for a disaster to happen, a bunch of things have to go wrong—and they did for the Raiders in 2017.
Here’s what I came up with in no particular order:
Regression to the Mean on One Score Games
The 2016 Raiders were remarkable in one score games (9-2 if you count 8 point games as one score). History tells us that year-over-year, teams just can’t continue to win the majority of those close games. Things just have a way of averaging out. Our 4-3 record in single digit games helped skew 2016’s comeback miracles back to the mean.
The NFC East is a tougher division this year than the NFC South was last year. Carolina, TB and NO all had down years in 2016. TENN, BAL and BUF were repeats. Instead of the Texans and the Colts, we got the Patriots and the Dolphins. The Chargers improved while the Chiefs treaded water.
The Surprise Factor is Gone
The 2017 Raiders haven’t been able to sneak up on anyone like they did in 2016. You can’t go 12-4 without turning heads. It was made crystal clear to our opponents that if you didn’t take the Raiders seriously that you would likely have an “L” hung around your neck. If there are some who doubt that the Surprise Factor even exists, I would ask: How many teams doubted the Rams and the Jags this year only to get punched in the mouth for it?
A Lack of Mental Intensity or Edge
We have been blown off of the field in most of our losses this year—NE, BAL, second KC game, first DEN game, WASH and BUF. I put this on the coaching staff and to a lesser extent the players. Quite simply, the Raiders figuratively never managed to get off of the bus in the majority of their games this season.
Game Plan Issues and a Seemingly Complete Lack of Adjustments
Our OC issues are well documented and discussed. I was not a fan of Musgrave but I’m also smart enough to know that you don’t fix things by jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Watching an unprepared team against NE in a game after a bye was extremely frustrating. KNJ lost his job over it. However, the real fallout of that game may not be realized until the dust completely settles on this season. More and more it looks like JDR is the coach you want to take your team from 4-12 to a division contender—but for anything beyond that, the keys need to be tossed to someone else.
Misuse of Personnel
How many times have we heard that the Raiders’ players aren’t being used correctly. A problem plaguing BOTH sides of the ball. The OL should not be zone blocking. The DBs should be beating the crap out of opposing wideouts at the line. Irvin should have been pressuring QBs all season long.On offense, I am still waiting for the Raiders to finally utilize the TE position like so many teams—no, almost EVERY team does against us—as a defensive gutting mechanism. We signed Cook right?
The Health of Derek Carr
While he had physically recovered from his broken leg I don’t think Carr mentally recovered from his injury. Given his gamer attitude with his broken finger, I expected his injury to be no big deal since he had an entire offseason. Then the back injury against Denver just reaffirmed that things can very quickly go terribly wrong in a collapsing pocket. These two events have made himtwitchy and have led to some horrible throws, questionable decisions, and bad turnovers.
A Streak of Bad Luck for 2017 Draftees
I’m stressing short term here because I believe Conley and Obi (along with KJ) will be cornerstones of one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL. The one pass Conley defensed this season was such a beautiful display of awareness that my jaw dropped. These guys are going to be great, but they had almost ZERO impact on this season.
A Quick, Easy Start to the Season Led to an Unanswered Wake Up Call
The Titans didn’t look like they were ready to play and the Jets were a pushover. Then came the string of 4 losses that turned out to be the mortal wound that we never recovered from. When the Marshawn-Lynch-dancing-Raiders landed in Washington, it became quite obvious that Redskins players weren’t going to allow that kind of thing to happen. The Raiders never expected that kind of response when they should have.
This is a chicken or egg thing for sure. Did the 2017 Raiders fade from 2016 because one of the centerpieces of their offense had a horrible season? Or did Cooper have a horrible season because the playcalling was horrible? The OL dipped in performance? Or the former MVP candidate and franchise QB suddenly got feet that never set? Or was it all of the above? Whatever the answer is, I have a feeling that in the years to come that how Cooper goes will be how the Raiders offense goes. (Hopefully we will be shored up on the defensive side of the ball so it won’t be all up to him.)
Distractions; Vegas and Otherwise
Success in the NFL can be fragile, and when things aren’t going well some seemingly small stuff can be the proverbial straw. The impending Vegas move. The “Anthem” fiction that was spun out of the Washington game. Lynch putting himself and his cousin before the team in the Thursday night game. The propensity for JDR to shift the blame. The obvious need to move on from KNJ unaddressed until it absolutely HAD to be done. Irvin walking out of practice. Rumors that there is unrest in the locker room. All these things are “just s**t that happens” if you’re winning. But if you’re not then they become just one more contribution to the mess.
Written by: ATX_rider