Despite doubts, Jon Gruden is the right mechanic to fix Derek Carr and the Raiders

Photo credit: @BleacherReport

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — For those who thought it was a cold-blooded move by Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis to fire former head coach Jack Del Rio 20 minutes after a 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers to close out a disappointing 2017 at 6-10, let me just put you at ease:

It was rightfully timed, but honestly, it could’ve came earlier in the year.

In fact, Davis’ frustration can be traced back to Week 4. After starting the season 2-0 with impressive wins against the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets, the Raiders would go on to lose their next four straight games, bringing their record to 2-4.

Following a 2-2 stretch in late November and early December that pulled the Raiders into a three-way tie in the AFC West at 6-6, the Raiders never looked like the team that finished 12-4 in 2016 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Davis didn’t talk to reporters after Oakland’s fourth straight loss to end the season, but those close to the owner have said that Davis has grown frustrated with the team’s lackluster performance, most notably on the offensive side of the football, after committing big money contracts to quarterback Derek Carr and offensive linemen Gabe Jackson, Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele in recent seasons.

Davis wanted to turn the page quickly to 2018 and handing the keys to the franchise over to former Raiders head coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden was supposedly the way to do it.

According to multiple reports, Gruden is expected to be named the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders, which also includes an ownership stake in the team. No deal is official, but the deal is “imminent” according to the reports.

In his first stint with Oakland, Gruden compiled a 64-38 regular season record, including a 4-2 postseason record. Gruden also led the Raiders to the AFC Championship Game in 2000, but was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for draft picks following the 2001 season after a contract dispute with Mark’s father, Al.

Gruden would lead the Buccaneers to a 48-21 victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season. During his seven years in West Florida, he was 112-57 in the regular season, including a 3-2 postseason record.

The reunion between the Raiders and Gruden makes sense. Gruden is beloved by Raider Nation in Oakland. He never wanted to leave the Silver and Black and had the team on the verge of a Super Bowl championship, and Davis desperately wants to win a Super Bowl for the City of Oakland before the team moves to Las Vegas in 2020.

Gruden’s eventual hiring will do wonders for the Raiders, but most notably for quarterback Derek Carr, who regressed a bit in 2017. Carr did suffer a broken bone in his back, where he missed just one game but didn’t look healthy or confident all year.

After back-to-back seasons of averaging 3,900 yards and 25 touchdowns for a 93.9 quarterback rating, Carr took a step back in 2017, throwing for just 3,496 yards and 22 touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 86.4.

In 2017, Carr threw 13 interceptions after throwing just six in 2016.

Carr’s top wide receivers, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, didn’t scare many teams this season. After an 89-catch, 1,003-yard receiving season in 2016, Crabtree finished with the season as the team’s leader in catches (58) and touchdowns (8) to go along with 618 yards in 14 games played after missing two games.

But Cooper’s 2017 season was just harder to figure out. Cooper was on his way of becoming one of the more electrifying wide receivers in the NFL with back-to-back 1,000-yards seasons, finished with just 680 yards receiving on 48 catches with seven touchdowns.

Tight end Jared Cook led Oakland in receiving yards with 688 on 54 catches for two touchdowns in his first season in Oakland.

But Carr is the the driver of the offense and Gruden will be tasked to repair a broken offense that finished 23rd in the NFL in scoring offense at 18.8 points per game in 2017 under first-time offensive coordinator Todd Downing after finishing fifth in scoring offense at 26.0 points per game in 2016 under then-offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.

Whispers around the organization suggest that Carr had a hand in the shakeup at offensive coordinator, switching from the demanding Musgrave to the laid back Downing.

Simply put, Carr and Downing were best buddies and Musgrave was the third wheel. Carr and Downing hated having Musgrave’s hands in the offensive popcorn bucket and had to go.

Musgrave’s contract wasn’t renewed after the 2016 concluded.

If/when Gruden is named head coach of the Raiders, Downing won’t be retained which will put Carr on notice immediately with the new coaching staff. Gruden, along with former franchise quarterback Rich Gannon who is rumored to join Gruden’s staff as the quarterback coach, will make it their personal goal to get every ounce of talent out of Carr.

From footwork to calling the plays in the huddle, Carr will be broken down and rebuilt by Gruden and Gannon.

In the end, the play of the the Raiders’ $125 million quarterback will determine the team’s success, but Gruden will be responsible for delivering the organization’s elusive fourth Super Bowl title it thirsts for.

Raiders part ways with head coach Jack Del Rio after 30-10 thrashing from Chargers

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio reacts during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

By Jeremy Kahn

Who would have thought when the 2017 season began, the Oakland Raiders would not make a return appearance to the AFC Playoffs, but now they are looking for a new head coach as well.

Jack Del Rio was informed after the game that he was being dismissed as coach of the Raiders by owner Mark Davis.

The firing of Del Rio comes just months after the Hayward native signed a four-year extension with the team.

“Today was kind of a microcosm of our season,” Del Rio said after the Raiders’ 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. “The opportunities and lack of production really not good enough, really disappointing.”

In his first season with the team in 2015, Del Rio went 7-9, then in 2016, the Raiders returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, as they went 12-4; however, this season their record fell to 6-10 and they missed the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons.

“He told me he loved me and appreciated all I did to get this program going in the right direction, but that he felt the need to change,” Del Rio said. “I told him how much I appreciated the opportunity he gave me; very grateful, my childhood team.”

“But it’s a results business. I understand that.”

In his three seasons with the Raiders, Del Rio went 25-23, becoming just one of seven Raiders coaches in team history to have a winning record their tenure ended.

Del Rio joins Al Davis (23-16-3), John Rauch (33-8-1), John Madden (103-32-7) , Tom Flores (83-53), Art Shell (56-52) and Jon Gruden (38-26).

ESPN.com contributed to this report.

Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr to miss 2-6 weeks with spinal fracture

Photo credit: NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — Raiders starting quarterback suffered a traverse process fracture after taking a knee to his lower back late in the third quarter in Oakland’s 16-10 road loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday, and is expected to miss 2-6 weeks.

News of Carr’s injury was first reported via the Bay Area News Group.

According to additional reports, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio found out about Carr’s injury about 10 minutes before he met the media Monday morning. Del Rio noted that Carr had an X-ray and an MRI during the morning, but initial tests didn’t reveal anything.

But a CAT scan was performed and revealed the fracture.

Backup quarterback EJ Manuel will take over Carr’s starting duties for the 2-2 Raiders, according to Del Rio. Manuel stepped in for Carr and played well, completing 7-of-11 passes for 106 yards, but through an interception late in the fourth quarter that iced the game for Denver.

Manuel will start for the Raiders Sunday against the visiting Baltimore Ravens (2-2). Oakland begins a stretch of three-straight home games after starting the season having played three of their first four games on the road.

Before leaving the game, Carr completed 10-of-18 passes for 143 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Holton in the second quarter.

For the season, Carr has completed 74-of-109 passes for 753 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions with a 101.2 passer rating through four games.

Raiders try to wrap up AFC West title in Denver without Derek Carr in regular season finale

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, left, watches as quarterback Derek Carr, bottom, is tended to by trainers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — With a playoff spot already in their back pocket, the Raiders have a chance to clinch the AFC West title with a win in Denver (or a Kansas City loss in San Diego) Sunday at 1:25 p.m. to close out the 2016 regular season at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

But the 12-3 Raiders are going to have to go out and win the division (and the AFC’s No. 2 seed) without franchise quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr. Carr fractured his right fibula during Oakland’s 33-25 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 on Christmas Eve.

The third-year quarterback completed 21-of-31 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns before being helped off the field following a sack by Colts defensive end Trent Cole in the third quarter. Carr’s leg got stuck in the Oakland Coliseum turf as Cole spun Carr around, fracturing his right fibula. On the season, Carr passed for 3,933 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.

The loss of Carr is devastating for the Silver and Black as they embark on their first postseason appearance since 2002, but Carr’s backup Matt McGloin is a guy that is ready for the challenge of leading a very talented team.

“I feel great,” McGloin said this week via CBSSports.com. “I know this team, these guys around me, this staff and this organization will do a great job of helping me out, embracing me, and making sure we keep moving in the right direction.”

McGloin, who threw for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions in six starts for Oakland in 2013, will have the same offensive unit that took down the Broncos 30-20 in Week 9 in front of the country on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in the first matchup.

In his career, McGloin has thrown for 1,847 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 58.3 percent of his passes.

Starting running back Latavius Murray bludgeoned one of the league’s best defenses on 20 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns that night in front of a sold out Raider Nation crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rookie running back DeAndre Washington had career-day against the Colts, carrying the ball 12 times for a career-high 99 yards and two touchdowns, both for 22-yard scores that capped off four straight touchdowns for Oakland.

The tandem of Amari Cooper (78 catches, 1,110 yards, 4 TDs) and Michael Crabtree (84 catches, 956 yards, 8 TDs) are great weapons for the former Penn State quarterback to throw to.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio believes in the closeness of his team and the coaches.

“We’ve got a good group of guys and a good group of men and a good group of coaches and players,” Del Rio said via CBSSports.com “who are going to work hard to put together a good plan, and we go out and expect to win.”

Denver (8-7), who will miss the playoffs this year after winning the Super Bowl last year, is coming off a 33-10 loss to Kansas City (11-4) on Christmas Night at frigid and rainy Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City racked up 484 yards of total offense and held a 21-7 lead in the first quarter against the once vaunted Broncos defense, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown run by rookie speedster Tyreek Hill and an 80-yard catch-and-run score by tight end Travis Kelce.

Both Hill and Kelce were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team as starters with Hill being named as a return specialist for his first selection of his career.

Hill, who has superb hands is second on the Chiefs with 56 catches for 547 yards and six touchdowns, has 497 yards on 38 returns including a 78-yard punt return for a score against Oakland in a 21-13 victory on Dec. 9 in Kansas City.

Hill also has an 86-yard kickoff return for touchdown that helped Kansas City take the Broncos in overtime,  30-27, in Denver on Nov. 27.

Kelce earned his second-straight Pro Bowl nod by having another impressive year for Kansas City  with 84 catches for 1,117 yards and four touchdowns.

The playoff-bound Chiefs are hoping that Denver can knock off Oakland because a Raider loss would give Kansas City the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye, and knock Oakland to the No. 5 seed where they would open the playoffs on the road in either Pittsburgh or Houston on Wildcard Weekend.

But the Raiders have shown that they can win on the road this season going 6-1 (well 7-1 if you count playing in Mexico City that was technically considered a Raider “home” game), but that was with Carr under center, not McGloin.

Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian has surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career with 3,195 yards, but has engineered a Broncos offense that scores just 20.6 points per game, 20th in the league.

Siemian has thrown for 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 83.9 passer rating.

But according to Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, Siemian will share some snaps this Sunday with former  first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

“I think Trevor deserves the right to go back out there as a starter,” Kubiak said via the Denver Post. “He’s done a lot of good things this year. He’s a young player that needs to keep going.

“I want him to get the Kansas City taste out of his mouth. It was a tough outing. Paxton is also going to play. I’m preparing both and you’ll see them both in the game.”

Just like Oakland, Denver have a premiere wide receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders leading the way.

Thomas leads the team with 86 catches for 1,036 yards and Sanders is second with 79 catches for 1,032 yards.

Both are tied for the team lead with five touchdowns a piece.

After starting the season 7-3, Denver is just 1-4 since.

Oakland won last season’s game in Denver on Dec. 13, 15-12, behind the dominate performance of defensive end Khalil Mack who tied a franchise-mark with five sacks off former Broncos quarterback now Houston Texas  high-priced backup, Brock Osweiler that day.

Raiders Instant Report Card: Cooper finally scores, Raiders tie Broncos for first place in AFC West with win over Chargers

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — I guess the Raiders love winning games by the closest of margins this season.

In a match up teams going in opposite directions, Oakland prevailed over visiting San Diego, 34-31, Sunday afternoon. Oakland took advantage of four Chargers’ turnovers and a botched field goal attempt on San Diego’s final drive of the game.

All of Oakland’s games this season have been decided by seven points or less, leading to the Raiders (4-1) to a share of the AFC West lead with the Denver Broncos.

Denver (4-1) was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten, losing at home to the Atlanta Falcons 23-16 Sunday. Atlanta (4-1) also defeated the Raiders 35-28 in Week 2, spoiling Oakland’s home opener.

Checkout each unit’s grade following the Raiders’ first win at the Oakland Coliseum this year:

Quarterback (B+) – Coming into the game Sunday, their was so much talk that Oakland would blowout San Diego, who are a depleted with 14 players on injured reserve but that was not the case.

Oakland missed opportunities in the first half on offense, settling for three Sebastian Janikowski field goals and trailing San Diego, 10-9 at halftime.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr seemed overly-excited in the first half in front of the sold out Raider Nation crowd, throwing only his second interception of the season on a shovel pass intended for rookie running back DeAndre Washington to Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane on Oakland’s first drive of the game.

But Carr rebounded, completing 25-of-40 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns against a Chargers secondary that were playing without Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett, who was lost for the season with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

With Oakland trailing 17-9 in the third quarter,  Carr threw a beautiful pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper down the Chargers’ sideline for a 64-yard score to pull Oakland closer, 17-16.

Following a Philip Rivers’ 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Hunter Henry that pushed San Diego’s lead to 24-16, Carr found wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a 21-yard touchdown on 4th and 2 that trimmed the Chargers’ lead to 24-22 before Carr found Cooper on a quick slant for the two-point conversion that tied the score 24-24.

For the season, Carr has thrown for 1,383 yards, 11 touchdowns, and two interceptions while completing 67-percent of his passes.

”Sometimes you just have to find ways to win and get it done at the end,” Carr said after the game. ”It would be nice if we didn’t have to do all the stress and drama at the end. That would be nice.”

Running Backs (B) –Without starting running back Latavius Murray, the ground game was left in the hands of rookie running backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, and fullback Jamize Olawale.

The trio registered just 23 carries for 89 yards on the ground, with Richard leading the group with only 31 yards on eight carries.

Washington rushed for 23 yards on a team-leading nine carries. Olawale (six carries and tied for a team-high six catches) was the only back to score, a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter that gave Oakland a 34-24 lead.

Offensive line (C-) – After not giving up a sack last week in Baltimore and keeping Carr upright, the unit gave up three sacks to San Diego Sunday.

Rookie defensive end Joey Bosa, who was making his NFL debut after missing San Diego’s first four games, found himself getting well acquainted with Carr, sacking Carr twice.

Linebacker Jatavis Brown recorded a sack for San Diego.

Wide Receivers (A) – It took five games, but wide receiver Amari Cooper finally got into the end zone Sunday.

Cooper had his best game of the season, catching six passes for 138 yards, and a touchdown. Cooper blew past Chargers’ strong safety Adrian Phillips down San Diego’s sideline for a 64-yard score.

The Raiders’ second-year wide receiver was targeted a team-high 12 times Sunday, and now leads the team in targets (44), yards (456, pacing fifth in the league among wide receivers), and is second to teammate Michael Crabtree for the team lead in receptions (29 to 26).

Crabtree finished with three catches and 47 yards Sunday, but hauled in his fifth touchdown catch of the year. Crabtree is tied with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown for the most touchdown catches in the league with five.

In 21 games with Oakland since 2015, Crabtree has recorded at least three catches in all games played and his 13 touchdowns from the start of last season are tied for sixth in the league over that span.

Oakland’s 32nd ranked defense had another tough day, giving up 423 yards of total offense to a Chargers team that was missing star wide receiver Keenan Allen and versatile running back Danny Woodhead. Allen and Woodhead both were lost for the season with torn ACL’s.

Even in the win, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio wasn’t happy with his defense’s performance, Del Rio called out his defense, saying that they need to “Stop playing Santa Claus. Stop giving out presents.”

Defensive Line (B) – Defensive tackles Stacy McGee (1.5 sacks) and Dan Williams (0.5 sack), were key in stopping Melvin Gordon and the Chargers’ ground game.

McGee forced two of San Diego’s five fumbles on the day.

Oakland’s defensive front limited the former Wisconsin Badger to 16 carries for 69 yards rushing.

Linebackers (A) – Newly signed linebacker Perry Riley, Jr. played great in his debut in Silver & Black, leading the team with seven tackles (six solo).

The former Washington linebacker started next to rookie Corey James for the injured Malcolm Smith. Smith, who did suit up, was active but didn’t play any snaps.

Riley Jr. will get a lot of playing time and could possible remain the starter if Smith’s injury continues to derail his season.

Secondary (C-) – The “gifts” that Raiders head coach might be referring to is the abundance of passing yards the secondary has given up game after game, as evident of the 356 yards and four touchdowns that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers threw on the rebuilt unit.

Free agent addition Sean Smith intercepted his second pass of the season and rookie Karl Joseph recorded both his first interception and fumble recovery, but Oakland couldn’t stop the Chargers wide receivers.

David Amerson, rated as the best cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus, was burned by wide receiver Tyrell Williams for a 29-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that gave San Diego a 7-3 lead.

Williams and fellow wide receiver Travis Benjamin had 117 receiving yards each, while combining for 12 catches.

Oakland is surrendering 330 yards per game through the air per game, which is dead last and that needs to improve.

Special Teams (A-) – Kicker Sebastian Janikowski accounted for 14 points on 4-of-5 field goals on the day, while punter Marquette King had three punts for an average of 41.3 yards per punt.

The Raiders welcome another bitter division rival, the Kansas City Chiefs (2-2), next Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PT.

Kansas City was on a bye week.

 

 

 

Carr and the Raiders head to Tennessee for Week 3 tangle

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr gets a satisfactory moment last Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum against the Atlanta Falcons only to lose 35-28. Carr and the Raiders are preparing for the Tennessee Titans next Sunday

OAKLAND, Calif — Will the real Oakland Raiders please stand up?

Will the Raiders team that pulled out a dramatic 35-34  come-from-behind victory in New Orleans  in Week 1 show up Sunday in Tennessee against the Titans? Or the one that followed up a great win with a head-scratching 35-28 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons that saw the Raiders (1-1) be brought back down to earth?

I know that is a lot of questions, but seriously, the Oakland Raiders have plenty of questions to answer, most notably the lackluster play of the defense, a unit that has surrendered more than 1,000 yards in two games this season.

During the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss, head coach Jack Del Rio took over play calling from defensive coordinator Ken Norton. Del Rio mentioned that there will be changes coming and those changes will happen soon, which makes the seat under Norton a little warmer.

Oakland has a chance to flex some muscle against the Titans Sunday, which they hope can re-energize the team with getting a win

The Raiders travel to Music City to take on a Titans (1-1) that has shown promise early in the season, but has only managed to score just 16 points in two games.

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota leads an offense with capable play-makers in tight end Delanie Walker, running backs DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry, and rookie wide receiver, Tajae Sharpe.

Mariota proved that he has grown up in the NFL in Year 2,  especially in the fourth quarter tossing two touchdowns in the final frame in the Titans’ 16-15 win last week in Detroit.

Mariota showed confidence and poise, leading the Titans on a 13-play, 83-yard drive, that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to the veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson with Mariota completed all nine of his passes for 74 yards on the Titans’ game-winning drive.

Walker, the Titans’ skilled tight, must be licking his chops as he should figure into the passing game heavily, as the Raiders allowed Falcon tight ends to record 10 catches and 180 last week.

But as much as Oakland has been torched by the opposition’s passing game this season, the Raiders must contend with a Titans’ running game that gave the team problems during Tennessee’s 27-14 victory over the Raiders in Oakland during the preseason.

Both Murray and Henry combined for 20 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns, and found huge holes in the Raiders’ defensive front.

Oakland is looking for another win in Nashville, rallying to beat the Titans 24-21 on Nov. 30, 2015 as quarterback Derek Carr found wide receiver Seth Roberts for the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.

For the season, Carr has thrown for 618 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, while second-year wide receiver Amari Cooper leads Oakland with 208 yards receiving.