How did we get here? How did the Oakland Raiders go from being a 12-4 team in 2016, to an underachieving 6-10 team with some seemingly fixable problems in 2017, to the utter disaster we see before us today? I remember Derek Carr spending a whole season lobbing beautiful deep balls to Amari Cooper and looking like the next great NFL quarterback. That all really happened, right? I swear it did. But after watching Carr and the Raiders get totally humiliated by the Seahawks on Sunday, it feels impossible. That is how bad the Raiders are right now—they’re so hopeless in the present that they’re retroactively erasing any hope from the past.
That regression may have begun last season, but we know exactly why they’ve gone over the cliff’s edge this year:
The team gave a 10-year, $100 million contract and complete control of the franchise to this towheaded freak, who last called a play in 2008 and has never been a personnel man. And what have they gotten out of their investment so far? A 1-5 record that should be 0-6 and some of the most embarrassing performances that any team has put forth during this young season. The 27-3 mushing they suffered at the hands of the Seahawks on Sunday constituted one of the saddest football games I’ve ever seen. The GIF at the top of this post, which shows Carr seemingly on the verge of tears after being sacked for the sixth and final time, is both genuinely depressing and already the defining moment of the Raiders’ season. Nothing better represents how quickly everything’s gone to shit than the quarterback who really and truly was good enough to earn a $125 million deal in 2017 blubbering, “Help help help help” while half-broken on the field.
The damage done to Carr in this game was only surpassed by the damage dealt to the sport itself. The Raiders play a particularly diseased brand of football, full of the kind of feverish and panic-stricken flailing that tends to show up when both the players and coaches are so obviously in over their heads. Whatever sharpness or innovation Gruden and his hand-picked staff were supposed to bring to the franchise was nowhere to be found, and the talents of the players on the field are buried ever deeper each week. There are still some good players on this Raiders roster, but man do they all stink right now.
From the very first drive of the game, it was clear that the defense was going to spend the day getting manhandled. The Seahawks started the game with seven consecutive run plays that went for 28 combined yards. The very next play was a screen pass that went for 24 yards. It was one of those passages of play that so clearly demonstrates the extent to which one team is overmatched by another. Just look at these dummies standing around trying to audible while the ball is being snapped:
That opening Seahawks drive wound up lasting seven-and-a-half minutes and ended in a touchdown. The Raiders’ first drive of the game, when an offense is usually following a carefully selected script of plays and at its sharpest and freshest, resulted in a three-and-out. At that point in time there was no safer bet in the history of mankind than the one that said the Raiders would go on to lose by multiple scores.
And oh how they lost. The stat that most specifically explains how bad the Raiders were in this game is the time of possession. You’d expect a wide split in a game as lopsided as this one, but the Raiders actually possessed the ball for 28:34, just three fewer minutes than the Seahawks. How do you have the ball for nearly half the game and score three points while gaining just 185 total yards? By doing shit like engineering a 14-play, eight-minute drive that only travels 45 yards down the field. That should be physically impossible to do. If you put 11 dogs coached by one of the kids from this video out on the field for 14 damn plays, they’d find a way to move the ball at least 47 yards against the Seahawks.
So how did the Raiders manage to suck this bad? By essentially breaking the conventions of the game. The purpose of a passing offense is to move the ball down the field; the Raiders spent the game seeing what would happen if one was designed to do the opposite. Carr’s average air yards, which measures how many yards each pass travels down the field, was 0.1 yards. Here is what a visual representation of that looks like:
That’s the brilliant offensive scheme Jon Gruden is earning $10 million to execute this season.
Carr finished the game with just 142 yards on 23 completions, and his wide receivers were targeted a grand total of 13 times. When he wasn’t uselessly tossing balls to running backs five yards behind the line of scrimmage, he was getting pummeled by various apparently unblockable opponents. Seattle’s front seven went around Carr’s offensive line at will, and a few times just pushed guys straight through the pocket and directly into Carr. Nobody was embarrassed as badly as Kolton Miller, who allowed himself to be turned into a projectile and was thrown at his own quarterback:
Buddy, that’s not how you’re supposed to play football at all!
Let’s be generous and say that Gruden turning a team that was 12-4 just two seasons ago into this bucket of slop is all part of some grand plan. Let’s assume that this grand plan will involve Gruden jettisoning the likes of Carr, Cooper, and the other holdovers so that he can go about getting His Guys and rebuilding around those draft picks he got from the Khalil Mack trade. Even if we accept that course of action, which there are many good reasons not to do, who on this good Earth believes that Jon Gruden is capable of executing such a rebuild effectively? Do you trust the guy who needed the benefit of a blown call to beat the Browns? Do you trust the guy who hired Greg Olson, an offensive coordinator who has had exactly one top-10 scoring offense during his decade-long career? Do you trust the absolute drooling moron who thought it would be a good idea to trade Khalil Mack for draft picks that might, under the very best of circumstances, turn into players half as good as Mack? Can you possibly trust the big dumb idiot described in this passage?
First there’s the matter of his side-view mirrors, which stay folded flush no matter how much Gruden shoves and bangs with his left hand, or feels about the car’s instrument panel with his right, all while drifting down 98th Avenue toward I-880 South as the GPS ladyvoice cuts in every 10 seconds to dictate the next turn. “Where am I going here, you think?” he asks more than once. “You think this is right?”
The Raiders are going to suck so hard this year, and then Gruden is going to get His Guys, one way or another. Then they’ll really be fucked.