Category Archives: Derek Carr

Oakland Raiders Finish Disappointing 2017 Season And Look To Rebuild Once Again

By Shawn Lealos

When the Oakland Raiders came into the 2017 NFL season, there were very high expectations for the franchise. For one thing, they had one of the best records in the AFC in 2016 until Derek Carr fell to injury. With Carr back and healthy, the Raiders looked like they could be Super Bowl contenders in 2017. Instead, the wheels fell off, Oakland finished the season with a losing record at 6-10, and they fired head coach Jack Del Rio. As a result, the future is cloudy for a team that looked like they were on the verge of greatness. Here is a look at what went wrong, what was promising, and what the future might hold for the Oakland Raiders following the 2017 season.

Coaching And Player Changes

The 2017 NFL season started out with coaching changes and ended with significant changes as well. In 2017, the Raiders finished the season with a 12-4 record and the sixth-ranked offense in the NFL. Carr was an NFL MVP candidate following his breakout season and the team ranked sixth in rushing yards as well. The Raiders also ranked 29th in the NFL in defense. That made some preseason decisions seem very strange.

The Raiders chose to let offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave leave the team and promoted Todd Downing to their offensive coordinator. Head coach Jack Del Rio had criticized Musgrave despite their excellent play in 2016 and pulled the trigger. However, he did keep Ken Norton as the defensive coordinator despite their poor play in 2016. Under their new offensive coordinator, Oakland dropped to 17th in the NFL and had trouble scoring points throughout the season. Before the season ended, Del Rio fired Norton, and the Raiders finished with the 23rd ranked defense.

The Raiders also chose to let Latavius Murray leave in the offseason, after running for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016. Murray went to Minnesota and ran for 842 yards and eight touchdowns in a timeshare with Jerrick McKinnon. The Raiders let Murray leave so that they could bring Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to lead their backfield. Lynch did end up running for 891 yards and seven touchdowns, but Oakland dropped from sixth in the NFL in rushing offense to 25th.

Raiders Still Contended For AFC West Title

Even with the Raiders’ poor play this season, they were still in contention for the AFC West title – and a playoff berth – until the final quarter of the season. Oakland was 6-6 after 12 games and held their own destiny in their hands. Thanks to an early season win over the Kansas City Chiefs, if Oakland had beaten the Chiefs a second time and then won their season finale over the Los Angeles Chargers, the Raiders could have won the division. However, Oakland lost their final four games by an average of 10 points per game, and ended up with a losing record one season after winning 12 games. This failure at the end of the season cost Del Rio his job.

Raiders Positives In 2017 NFL Season

Oakland’s defense struggled for most of the year. Three of their top cornerbacks were injured for almost the entire season, and their top two draft picks from 2017 also were hurt throughout the year. However, after Del Rio fired Norton and replaced him with John Pagano, the defense played better through the rest of the season. Khalil Mack had another double-digit sack season with 10.5, but he showed a lot of discontent, both after Norton was fired and after the Raiders let Del Rio go. The Raiders had no interceptions under Norton but finished the year with five, including two by Sean Smith. That means the talent is there, but needs to be utilized better.

Raiders Future Remains Cloudy

The Oakland Raiders didn’t just fire Jack Del Rio for losing 10 games in 2017. They fired him for bad personnel decisions, getting rid of a great offensive coordinator and keeping a defensive coordinator that struggled for a second straight season. Now, according to most reports, the Raiders plan to bring back an old head coach in Jon Gruden. While Al Davis let Gruden go over a decade ago, new owner Mark Davis likes Gruden and is offering him a lot to come back and turn the Raiders around again.

Gruden is considered a quarterback guru, so the first thing Oakland needs to do is help Carr revert to his MVP ways from 2016. Gruden is the perfect person to try to accomplish that. The Raiders also need to figure out if they want to keep Lynch for another season or try to find a new running back to help take pressure off Carr. The most significant thing Oakland needs to do is improve a defense that has ranked near the bottom of the NFL for two straight seasons. The talent is still there, but Oakland needs to get their new coaching staff in place and try to fine tune their team. A coaching change worked for the Los Angeles Rams this year, and Oakland has a template to mimic that success in 2018.

Gruden Tells Paper: ‘I Hope I’m A Candidate’ For Raiders Job

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Jon Gruden hopes he’s a candidate to return for a second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders and believes a final decision will be made next week.

Gruden made his most specific comments about the opening in Oakland in an interview Tuesday with the Bay Area News Group . The Raiders fired coach Jack Del Rio on Sunday following a disappointing six-win season

“My understanding is they’re interviewing candidates this week and they’re going to let everybody know sometime early next week or whenever they make their decision,” Gruden told the paper.

When asked specifically if he was a candidate, Gruden replied: “Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I’m a candidate.”

The Raiders are not commenting on the search beyond a statement issued Sunday night from owner Mark Davis thanking Del Rio for his tenure.

Gruden spent four seasons as coach in Oakland from 1998-2001. After leading the Raiders to 8-8 records his first two years, Gruden helped the team reach the AFC title game following the 2000 season and got Oakland back into the playoffs the following season.

Gruden’s tenure ended shortly after the “Tuck Rule” loss to the New England Patriots when he was traded the following month to Tampa Bay for two first-round draft picks, two second-rounders and $8 million.

Gruden beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers but didn’t win another playoff game for Tampa Bay in his final six seasons. He has a 95-81 career record.

Gruden has spent the past nine seasons working as an announcer for ESPN and is scheduled to work the playoff game Saturday in Kansas City between the Chiefs and Tennessee Titans. ESPN first reported the likelihood of Gruden returning to Oakland on the eve of the season finale that Oakland lost.

Del Rio was fired following the 30-10 defeat to the Chargers, leading to the current search.

The Raiders will be required to comply with the “Rooney Rule” and interview at least one minority candidate or otherwise face discipline from the NFL.

John Wooten, the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance which monitors the NFL’s minority hiring, said he is confident the Raiders will follow the rules and doesn’t consider the process a sham despite reports Gruden would get the job before it even opened.

Wooten pointed to the Raiders’ history under late owner Al Davis and his son, Mark, in hiring minority candidates, from making Art Shell the first African-American head coach in modern NFL history in 1989 and then bringing him back for a second stint in 2006.

Tom Flores was the first Hispanic coach to win a Super Bowl and the team also hired Hue Jackson as coach in 2011 and currently employs Reggie McKenzie as general manager.

“I trust the integrity of Mark Davis and Reggie and what they have done,” Pollard said. “I trust they will follow the rule and I believe that.”

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

Raiders Issues In 2017 Went Deeper Than Coaching

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – The problems that plagued the Oakland Raiders this season in their surprising fall from Super Bowl contender to a losing record went much deeper than any coach.

While coach Jack Del Rio paid the price for overseeing one of the league’s most disappointing teams this season, it will take more than just bringing in Jon Gruden or some other coach to turn Oakland around.

“For us as players, we need to be better,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We have to be more accountable. We have to be more demanding.”

That was missing this season as the Raiders (6-10) were unable to build on last year’s 12-win season that ended a 13-year playoff drought and reverted back to the losing ways that plagued this franchise since the team’s previous Super Bowl trip following the 2002 season in the year after Gruden left the organization for the first time.

The offense took a major step backward after firing coordinator Bill Musgrave and replacing him with the untested Todd Downing.

The defense showed no improvement the first 10 weeks under Ken Norton Jr. before making some progress after a mid-season change to John Pagano but it wasn’t enough.

The Raiders fell into a hole with a four-game losing streak early in the season and then collapsed with four straight losses down the stretch after getting back into contention.

That led to owner Mark Davis’ decision to fire Del Rio after three seasons with all signs pointing to Gruden returning as the team’s next coach. ESPN which employs Gruden as an announcer, has reported that the move will happen.

Whoever is hired will have a much better foundation than the one Del Rio inherited when took over following a three-win season in 2014.

“For a while there, we didn’t have any winning seasons. He came in here and we were able to turn things around,” fullback Jamize Olawale said. “I think moving forward, the future is bright.”

Here are some issues the Raiders will face this offseason:

FIX THE CARR: The most puzzling development this season was the step back by Carr. He had become one of the league’s most promising passers after leading seven fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016.

But whether it was skittishness after a broken leg that ended 2016 and a back injury early this season, the coordinator change or some other factor, Carr looked little like the player who earned a $125 million contract last offseason. He tied his career high with 13 interceptions and most of his other numbers were the worst since his rookie season.

BEAST MODE: The Raiders lured Marshawn Lynch out of retirement in part for goodwill from the fans in Oakland, who wanted to cheer on a hometown favorite. Lynch proved to be more than that the second half of the season as he averaged 78.1 yards rushing per game over the final eight games, tied for third best in the league in that span. But whether that’s enough for the team to want him back for a second season will be a question this offseason.

CRABBY CRAB: Receiver Michael Crabtree mysteriously became a non-factor for the Raiders down the stretch after being an integral part of the team for most of his first three seasons in Oakland.

Crabtree played just 46 snaps in the final two games, was targeted five times and had just two catches. He spent much of the time on the sideline upset by his reduced role.

“I do everything I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I play 60 minutes every time we play. Game winners after game winners.

“I did everything they asked of me these last two games and I’ve probably had three targets. Nobody’s saying anything about that but it’s all good. Like I said I’m going to keep working hard and be me.”

SECOND CHANCE: Oakland spent its first two draft picks this past season on two defensive backs who ended up making little impact because of injuries. First-round cornerback Gareon Conley played just two games because of a shin injury and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu had just 34 defensive snaps because of lower-body injuries.

The Raiders will be counting on healthy bounce-back seasons from those two to boost a secondary that has struggled in recent years.

PAY DAY: One player the Raiders are sure to pay this offseason is 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. Mack has been a star since entering the league in 2014 and his 192½ pressures lead the NFL over the past three season and his 36½ sacks rank second. Mack has one year remaining on his rookie deal and will be in line for a lucrative new deal this offseason unless Oakland opts to wait and possibly use the franchise tag in 2019.

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

Oakland Raiders Week 17 Team Grades: Raiders Finish Season With 30-10 Loss To Chargers

By Shawn S. Lealos

The Oakland Raiders had little to play for in their final game of the 2017 NFL season—besides pride and a chance to eliminate any playoff hopes for the Los Angeles Chargers. But when all was said and done, the Raiders lost their 10th game of the season and will enter the offseason with major questions about 2018. The loss was a lopsided 30-10 defeat that emphasized everything that Oakland has struggled with over the season. 

Offense: C

After almost winning the NFL MVP in 2016 before falling to injury, Derek Carr struggled to an end of the 2017 NFL season. He has problems with his accuracy and scoring this season and this final game was no different. Carr threw one touchdown and an interception while getting sacked twice and throwing for 243 yards. Carr also fumbled once, costing his team two turnovers in the game.

It did help to get his top target—Amari Cooper—back, as he finished with 115 yards on three receptions and the only score of the game. Michael Crabtree struggled with only two receptions for 17 yards. Seth Roberts has also risen to a legitimate receiver, with five receptions for 48 yards. 

The biggest signing of the 2017 offseason was when the Raiders brought Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. Lynch carried the ball 19 times in this game for 101 yards. While Lynch struggled when the season started, he finished strong, with 434 rushing yards in the final five games of the season. However, Lynch hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown in the last three games and this might be a one-and-done return for Lynch.

Defense: F

After much-improved play over the last few weeks, the Raiders defense regressed against the Los Angeles Chargers. Philip Rivers carved up the Raiders secondary, throwing for 387 yards and three touchdowns. Navorro Bowman and Bruce Irvin combined for one sack, but that was the only time the Raiders reached Rivers in this game. Bowman was the star of the Raiders defense in this game with 13 tackles, eight of them solo. The Raiders didn’t force a turnover in the game, while their offense lost two.

Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin combined for 229 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and the Raiders couldn’t stop the passing game at all. The Chargers also ran for 115 yards, with Melvin Gordon racing for 93 on his own. This was a game where the Raiders defense failed in every area.

Special Teams: A

Giorgio Tavecchio only had two chances to score in the game, both in the second quarter. He hit his only point after attempt and kicked a 40-yard field goal. Punter Marquette King only trotted out to punt three times, averaging 45 yards a punt, putting one inside the 20. The Chargers never had a chance to return any kickoff or punt. 

Coaching: F

The Oakland Raiders fired head coach Jack Del Rio after three seasons. Last year, Del Rio had the Raiders lined up for a big playoff run, but an injury to Derek Carr damaged those plans. This season, Del Rio came in and had his Raiders in line for a big year, but made personnel changes before the season started, changing offensive coordinators. That was a bad move as the Raiders couldn’t do anything this year on offense. Furthermore, he kept a defensive coordinator that struggled the year before and fired him last month. The fall of the Raiders led to his termination and this game was a huge example of his struggles on both sides of the ball.

The Oakland Raiders’ 6-10 season has ended and with it, so has the job of their head coach. Now, the search is on for a new head coach and the future for Oakland is up in the air. Right now, the rumor is that the Raiders are planning on bringing back Jon Gruden. This offseason has more questions than answers.

Raiders Team Grades: Raiders Fall To Eagles On Christmas Day

By Shawn Lealos

The Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles faced off on Monday Night Football in the last game on Christmas Day, and the game was much closer than most experts predicted. While the Raiders’ playoff hopes ended before they ever took the field against the Eagles, they looked to play spoiler and tried to stop the Eagles from clinching home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. And they almost did, playing a very close game until the end when the Eagles pulled away and took the win. The final score was 19-10 in favor of the Eagles, but the game seemed much closer than that final score.

Offense: C

In 2016, Derek Carr was in talks for the NFL MVP award until an injury ended his season. When the red-hot Raiders fell in the playoffs, many fans wondered what would happen if Carr had stayed healthy. Sadly, the Raiders did not find out this season as Carr fell to an injury early on and never looked the same when he returned. He continued to struggle late in the season, and while the Raiders had a chance to win this game, it was Carr’s mistakes that hurt them. The Raiders quarterback finished with only 137 passing yards while throwing two interceptions and one touchdown. While he lost two of his starting offensive linemen to the injured reserve this week, he was only sacked once.

Amari Cooper returned from his most recent injury and scored the only Raiders touchdown of the game on a 63-yard touchdown reception. He only caught two other balls for a total of three yards. Michael Crabtree was shut out, not catching a single pass on three attempts. The best part of the Raiders offense came on the ground, an unusual stat this season in Oakland. Marshawn Lynch had 25 carries for 95 yards in the game while Jalen Richard carried the ball four times for 42 yards.

Defense: B

The biggest problem in Oakland all season has been a defense that can’t stop anyone. However, ever since they changed defensive coordinators a month ago, they have played much better. Coming into the game, the Philadelphia Eagles ranked eighth in total offense with 386.9 yards per game. The Raiders defense held the Eagles to just 216 total yards. Nick Foles completed 19 passes for 163 yards and a score, but he also threw a pick to Reggie Nelson, the first of the season for the safety. Denico Autry and Jihad Ward each recorded a sack as well.

On the ground, Jay Ajayi ran for only 52 yards, although he added 21 yards and a touchdown through the air. The Raiders did force an Ajayi fumble, resulting in their second turnover of the game. For a change, it was not the Raiders defense that hurt them in this game.

Special Teams: C+

This was a game of special teams. With seconds left, the Eagles only led by a field goal. If it wasn’t for a fumble when the Raiders were trying to make magic happen as time ran out, the game would have looked much closer. Each team only scored one touchdown and both kickers missed a field goal. Overall, Giorgio Tavecchio hit one of two attempts. It isn’t fair to say that the game could have gone to overtime if he had made his one missed field goal because the Eagles’ Jake Elliott hit two-of-three, so both teams missed a chance to put three more points on the board in the game.

The return game was negligible for both teams. In the punting game, Marquette King kicked the ball five times for a 41.4-yard average, only putting one inside the 20.

Coaching: C+

Jack Del Rio is finishing the season much stronger than he started it. If the Raiders had played like they have the past few weeks all season, they might be in the playoffs. Sadly, just as the defense has started to pick things up, the offense can’t seem to score points. The Raiders have a lot of problems to address this offseason, but they are playing stronger as the season comes to a close.

The Oakland Raiders (6-9) close out their 2017 season against their division rival Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. While Oakland has nothing to play for, the Chargers have a chance to make the playoffs if they win, the Tennessee Titans lose and either the Buffalo Bills or Baltimore Ravens lose as well. This means that the Raiders can finish the season with a win and knock their bitter rival out of playoff contention as well.

Playoffs Not In Cards For Raiders After Latest Loss

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Coach Jack Del Rio still doesn’t understand how Dallas got a first down by the width of an index card in a key play of a game that dealt a crippling blow to the Oakland Raiders’ already slim playoff hopes.

Dak Prescott’s fourth-down sneak gave the Cowboys a first down by the narrowest of margins after a measurement that included props and helped set up the go-ahead score in Dallas’ 20-17 win Sunday night.

“Nothing really surprises you after 32 years, things happen in this league,” Del Rio said Monday. “But, that was unusual.”

The key play came when the Cowboys went for it on fourth-and-1 from their 39 with about five minutes left in a tie game. Prescott dived into the pile on a sneak, and the officials took some time to untangle the mess and spot the ball.

Referee Gene Steratore called for the chains to come out, but even then it wasn’t clear if the ball had cleared the first-down threshold. He tried to slide an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain before awarding Dallas a first down.

Steratore said after the game he had decided it was a first down before the odd measurement, but Del Rio isn’t buying it.

“I thought everything was in place to get an accurate call and I saw space and in my opinion, it should have gone the other way and a turnover on downs. I haven’t had a chance to call and get the explanation. I mean, I’m sure there will be some kind of explanation, but whatever it is, I’m going to disagree with it,” Del Rio said. “I know what I saw, I saw it myself from the sideline. But I also saw plenty examples on Twitter. The guy ran out there with the camera and put the camera right down on it, so the whole world got to see what it was. It’s not like we’re making something up. The guy with the camera was right there. So how you can look at that and then get up with a smirk. I don’t know, that’s hard to take.”

Oakland still had a chance to win after holding Dallas to a field goal on that drive, but Derek Carr fumbled while trying to stretch the ball over the goal line on a scramble and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback that gave the Cowboys the ball.

The Raiders head into the final two games with only the slimmest of postseason chances. They must win at Philadelphia and the Chargers, then hope Buffalo and Tennessee each lose twice, Miami wins twice and Baltimore gets at least one tie or win in the final two games to get in as the sixth seed in the AFC.

Oakland’s playoff odds are estimated at less than 1 percent, according to fivethirtyeight.com. Still, Del Rio doesn’t plan to shift playing time with an eye on evaluating younger players ahead of next season.

“We’re going to play to win,” he said. “We’re just going to play to win. We’re going to do everything we can to get over this ‘close but no cigar’ finish we had.”

One lineup change Oakland has to make this week is at left tackle, where stalwart Donald Penn went down with a right foot injury that will require surgery Wednesday. Penn has appeared in all 174 regular-season games since making his debut as an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay in 2007. Penn became a starter that season and has started 170 straight games, the longest active streak of any offensive lineman.

Penn did miss Oakland’s playoff game last year against Houston with a knee injury but has otherwise been an ironman at a grueling position.

Del Rio said he hadn’t decided whether to start rookie David Sharpe next Monday at Philadelphia or use the same alignment he did after Penn got hurt in Sunday’s loss to Dallas with Marshall Newhouse moving from right to left tackle and Vadal Alexander coming in to take Newhouse’s spot.

NOTES: Del Rio praised C Rodney Hudson for playing through a kidney stone Sunday. … Del Rio had no update on the status of injured WR Amari Cooper, who missed this week’s game with an ankle injury.

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