LAS VEGAS — This is shaping up to be one heck of a strange week for the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Silver and Black, which are in official freefall at 2-6 and having dropped two straight, have all but disappeared from the chase for the postseason. Tuesday, they released safety Johnathan Abram, another first-round pick who failed to live up to the billing and justify being such a high selection. He’s the fourth first-rounder who didn’t make it in Las Vegas as the ghost of Jon Gruden lives.
Monday, they learned their opponent this Sunday — the Indianapolis Colts — sacked head coach Frank Reich and convinced Jeff Saturday to leave the ESPN studio and take over on the sideline. The Colts, who like the Raiders, harbored high hopes going into the 2022 season, are also on the outside looking in for the playoffs as the second half of the season begins. Indy is 3-5-1 thanks to inconsistent quarterback play and dubious coaching decisions along with a failure to come up with the big play on defense.
I have no idea what to expect from the Colts on Sunday. Maybe they find a way to rally around their interim coach, a guy who is a product of the glory years in Indianapolis as one of the protectors of Peyton Manning. Maybe they’ll look confused and disjointed, an extension of what has already transpired.
The Raiders? I kinda have an idea of what they’ll do. QB Derek Carr will have his moments of brilliance against the Indy secondary and perhaps he and head coach Josh McDaniels will be on the same page for longer periods of time. They’ll get Josh Jacobs more touches and he’ll likely get back on track and have a good day. And Carr will make sure Davante Adams is targeted early and often and keep going to him in the second half regardless of the amount of success they enjoy together in the opening 30 minutes at Allegiant Stadium.
I’d like to think Maxx Crosby continues his All-Pro season against a Colts offensive line that sure could use a clone or two of Saturday when he was one of the game’s premier centers and helped Manning and the Colts win Super Bowl XLI over the Bears, 29-17, in rainy Miami Gardens, Fla.
I’m guessing Daniel Carlson will put up a couple of field goals after a penalty or an errant Carr third-down pass short-circuits a would-be Raiders TD drive. That’s been the Raiders’ “M.O.” all season. Why would you think it would suddenly change now?
Between Wednesday and Sunday, you’ll hear a lot of “We’re not paying attention to outside noise” and “The guys in this room still believe” and similar talk from the Raiders’ players and coaches. Of course that’s what they’re going to say. They can’t wave the white flag. That would really irritate the fan base, which, in case you haven’t already noticed, is pretty upset with the state of things at the Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center in Henderson.
They wanted McDaniels gone long ago. They want Carr benched. They wanted GM Dave Ziegler to make some significant moves at the trade Deadline Nov. 1. Of course, none of those things happened or will happen. Owner Mark Davis can have all the closed-door meetings he wants and unless everyone follows Adams’ lead and rips McDaniels publicly to where he completely loses the locker room, the coach is going to remain on the sidelines.
This was supposed to be the turning of the page, so to speak. The vestiges of Gruden and Mike Mayock were supposed to have slipped away into history while Ziegler and McDaniels were going to use “The Patriot Way” from their time with Bill Belichick to shape and take the Raiders forward and build off last year’s playoff appearance.
Instead, things have been stuck in reverse. And it’s like watching someone try to drive a car with a stick-shift only they haven’t figured out how to get out of first gear.
To sum it up, I defer to my good friend, the late Las Vegas sports talk show host Brian Blessing, who would say of the Raiders’ current conundrum — “This team has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.”
They’re just one or two more missteps away from the last rites.