During the Mexico City matchup between Oakland and New England, the Raiders played absolutely terrible, save for Marshawn Lynch and flashes of Derek Carr.
Prior to the start of the season, the Oakland Raiders were heavily lauded as Super Bowl contenders. As it turns out, they’re truly only pretenders. In a game that was billed as a potential shootout, and one in which the Raiders were coming off of a bye week, it appeared that only Tom Brady & Co. came ready to play ball. From the opening kickoff until the final whistle, the game was a complete ‘mollywhopping’ by the Patriots.
Oakland’s head coach, Jack Del Rio, approached the game as if he were the lead character in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, to put it lightly. Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, much like Lucy van Pelt, repeatedly placed the ball on the field and dared ol’ Jack to take the bait. Without hesitation, Jack did, allowing the Raiders players to fall flat on their backs, over and over again.
Despite the botched game plan (if we can even call it that), both Derek Carr and Marshawn Lynch came to play. Lynch ran the ball as ferociously as we’ve seen all year, and picked up consistent yardage, almost at will. Derek Carr hit receiver after receiver with catchable passes, yet every single wideout committed a drop. Carr, who is usually the consummate professional, stared down receivers with Aaron Rodgers-like dismay as the peanut butter glove syndrome continued to spread among the offense.
While Coach Belichick annexed running back Rex Burkhead for an early fumble, Jack Del Rio continued to roll with wide receiver Seth Roberts after several gaffes, knowing full well that any mistake against the Patriots is already one too many. Dubbed as a player’s coach, Del Rio seems to hesitate to take control of the wheel when it’s most warranted, whether it’s sitting players or making gutsy calls. Having been criticized earlier in the season for his mishandling of Marshawn Lynch’s dancing on the field (and game ejection against the Chiefs), it’s quite possible that Del Rio has lost the locker room.
While Derek Carr is paid handsomely ($125 million) to be a coach on the field in his own right, responsibility starts from the top-down. In this case, the top-down goes through Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator, Todd Downing. When asked the hard, but honest, questions by radio host Damon Bruce of 95.7 (‘The Game’) a day after the embarrassing defeat, Coach Del Rio seemed to be at a loss for words. Specifically, when asked what went wrong, Del Rio’s only sarcastic answer was, “We didn’t score enough.” While that answer might go over well for a winning coach, it’s unacceptable coming from Del Rio. Whether the interview was a fair one or not, any coach should be able to offer plausible solutions, even if slightly vanilla to the public.
By no means does any player on the Raiders roster get a pass for such a poor showing during any part of this season. Not Derek Carr. Not Amari Cooper. Not Khalil Mack. Not Marshawn Lynch.
That being said, it’s up to Jack Del Rio to identify what the issues are with his team. Whether it be coaches, players, or the game script itself that present a problem, Del Rio needs to step up his tact. Period. If Del Rio feels uncomfortable letting other heads roll for whatever reason during a string of losing efforts, then it may be time for him to hit the road.