For the Las Vegas Raiders, time is their enemy.
The 2-5 Raiders have a lot of issues. But are they correctable? The head coach isn’t going anywhere. Owner Mark Davis made that clear Tuesday. The quarterback likely isn’t being benched. The team traded a defensive lineman nine days go but didn’t do anything else at the NFL’s trade deadline Tuesday.
The one thing they probably did right was head straight to Florida to prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday rather than return to Las Vegas following last Sunday’s pathetic performance in being shut out 24-0 by the New Orleans Saints. The Raiders looked like a bunch of guys who had been out carousing on Bourbon Street, stumbled into their hotel at 6 a.m., then realized, “Holy crap, we gotta play a football game.”
I’m not sure how many lengthy meetings Davis is going to want to have with Josh McDaniels, his embattled first-year coach. But I know Davis never had to have a closed-door conversation with his WNBA team’s head coach. His encounters with Becky Hammon likely consisted of a hug or a fist-bump, saying “congratulations” and then heading off to dinner. But suffice to say, his vote of confidence in McDaniels isn’t sitting well with Raider Nation, which expected much better than 2-5 at this point.
“We need to coach and play better to earn better results,” McDaniels said. “Consistency is what we’re going to try and push for. If we do that and start playing our best football here and start stringing together some wins you can look up at the end of the year and a lot of things can happen.”
That’s code for “Don’t give up the ship.” It’s fine that McDaniels is taking ownership of the team’s struggles and as he said after the game Sunday, “It’s on me to fix it.”
O.K., so how do you fix it? How do you get Davante Adams more involved in the offense? How do you get your defense to help Maxx Crosby out and make plays? How do you prepare your team to play from the opening kickoff?
There’s a multitude of issues facing this team. McDaniels may well be able to fix some of what ails his squad. But the Raiders already had their bye week. Any chance for a reboot has come and gone. Running back Josh Jacobs, who had a record day against Houston on Oct. 23, was neutralized by a New Orleans defense which was geared to keeping him in check. The Raiders’ defense was picked apart by Andy Dalton, a 34-year-old third-string quarterback and a running back — Alvin Kamara — who single-handedly dominated them, much the way Jacobs has done to opposing defenses this season.
Maybe things fall into place against the Jaguars, who went to London last week, lost to a struggling Denver team and returned to their city which was engulfed in controversy over antisemitic tropes stimulated by a rapper which found its way projected on the back of the stadium scoreboard and office buildings. Perhaps a week spent in Florida will cleanse the stench from the performance in New Orleans. It’s hard to imagine Derek Carr playing worse than he did last Sunday. And maybe, just maybe, tight end Darren Waller finally returns to action.
Many fans are frustrated with Carr, and it’s not the first time during his career with the Raiders that that’s happened. But I’m not sure sitting him at this point will get the Raiders back on track. However, something seems amiss between coach and quarterback. McDaniels and Carr may tell you they’re on the same page when it comes to understanding the offense and the play-calling, but the results haven’t been there to date.
There’s still time to sort things out. Though let’s be honest, with each losing week, the chances of this getting turned around gets diminished. And the reality is, there may simply be too many teams in the AFC for the Raiders to leapfrog and land a wild-card spot even if they get their act together. The margin of error is almost nil at this point, so it’s up to McDaniels to coach better, his staff to prepare better, the players to play better and for this team to battle. If it goes down fighting, so be it. But should there be an encore of what happened last Sunday in the Caesars Superdome, Davis may want to rethink his plan as it pertains to his head coach.