Back in the day (the late 20th century) before social media increased public pressure on NFL team owners, a new head coach had the opportunity to create a “3-year plan” to get a losing team back to the promised land.
In Year 1, the coach would instill his playbook and a fresh attitude in the locker room and around the practice facility. Costly veterans who have been carrying the team to some type of limited success could be traded off for fresh bodies and prospects, as Jimmy Johnson traded Hershel Walker for almost the entire Minnesota Vikings roster (I’m exaggerating, but not by much) in his early days in Big D. Year 1 was often a disaster on the field, but created a blank pallet for the new skipper to rebuild from.
In Year 2, new draft picks and trade acquisitions could develop in their roles. Finally, by Year 3, the team was ready to contend again…and would often have a higher ceiling than it did when the process began.
Things have changed as enhanced parity and analytics cause coaches to get evaluated right away, and put pressure on the newcomer to win. Steven Wilkes of the Arizona Cardinals, for instance, may be fired after his maiden season with the Big Red. He doesn’t appear to be able to coach defense, and his offense is timid and ineffective.
But Wilkes isn’t an icon in the coaching ranks. Jon Gruden is. Using his largess to gain some type of power and job security in Oakland that goes well beyond the average for an NFL head coach, Gruden is using year #1 of his reign with the Raiders as a deck-clearing exercise.
He has traded Amari Cooper, a tremendously unpopular move with players who feel that the 1-and-6 Silver & Black is playing for next season already. Yet Gruden has already flashed his talent for against-the-grain evaluations of talent, helping Marshawn Lynch prolong his NFL career beyond what many thought possible. Though even that story became a downer once Lynch took a potentially season-ending injury.
The biggest headline out of Oakland has been something a lot less pleasant and even more controversial than the Cooper trade. Resulting confusion about where the franchise is headed at the most important position has left the Raiders an NFL betting site underdog against a losing San Francisco team on Thursday Night Football.
Who: Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers
When: Thursday, November 1st, 8:15 PM EST
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Lines: OAK (+3) at SF (-3) / O/U Total: (46.5)
Oakland’s lone victory came in the 4th game against Cleveland, and the final score was anything but resounding at 45-42. The Raiders have lost 3 in a row, and though the offense scored more points vs Indianapolis last weekend than it had in 2 previous outings, the defense allowed unheralded Marlon Mack 5.2 yards per carry and gave Andrew Luck a get-well game despite playing at home.
Unfortunately that’s not as ugly as it gets for the 2018 Raiders (we’d call them the 2018-19 Raiders, but it’s almost certain they won’t be playing in January).
QB Derek Carr was spotted in a teary-eyed swoon after suffering an injury earlier in the season, leading some of the less-intelligent players on the squad to start questioning his toughness. Excellent Forbes editorialist (and Raiders fan) Jerry Barca describes just how classless and self-destructive the reports have made the team look:
News about the tears came from reporting by The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson. The story told of a “fractured relationship” between Carr and his teammates. The following passage made its way around the internet. “They saw his face,” Thompson wrote. “They heard his whimper. They witnessed him explain on the sidelines. They assuredly watched it again in film session. It’s hard to see how Carr can lead this team again.”
The truth is worse than whether Carr cried or not. The problem for Oakland is that Thompson isn’t writing fiction. It’s likely somebody, or multiple somebodies, offered the reporter this information and opinion from within the locker room. None of that is about building a winner. It’s institutional gossip, which will gut any organization. Maybe the Raiders move on from Carr after this season – or even by Tuesday’s trade deadline. Who steps in at a place where nameless sources sell out a team leader to the media? This high school-esque episode makes it a lot less enticing to join the Raiders. It’s also the type of behavior you can’t erase. It’s evidence of a losing culture.
As for the 49ers, the squad – predicted by many to have a better season in 2018-19 – is in midst of an even-worse losing streak and is almost mathematically eliminated already. Quarterback C.J. Beathard is injured, leaving backup Nick Mullens to mind the store on TNF.
Mullens’ supporting cast has been hapless. Arizona is a dreadful unit (as mentioned above) but the 49ers lost to the Cardinals last week anyway…for the 2nd time in 4 weeks. The offensive line has struggled to pass block, a mystery given that the offense is rushing for almost 5 ypc on the season.
I’m liking the Over. Carr had a solid game against Indianapolis, a tremendous feat under the circumstances and a credit to his resolve. Meanwhile, if the Raiders are too stupid to know that it’s 2018 and men are allowed to be emotional human beings, they’ll also be too self-absorbed to take Mullens seriously. That could be a mistake. Any QB can potentially flourish with a decent running game for support…and that’s 1 thing the 49ers have.
Bet the Over (46.5) total points in San Francisco.