By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Somewhere in the middle of Thursday night’s absolute beatdown by a third-string quarterback with no NFL experience, the cameras zeroed in on Raiders owner Mark Davis. The man appeared to be alive, but the only way you were able to tell was by his blinking. Nothing else was moving as he sat, stunned, staring into the distance.
Now, it’s certainly possible that Davis was simply day-dreaming about the next day’s lunch order at P.F. Chang’s. But it’s more likely that the man who inherited a franchise was pondering how things got so bad, so fast.
Really, he didn’t need to stare off into the distance to find the answer. He could have just looked directly at the sideline.
That’s where Jon Gruden was standing, making perplexed and befuddled and flummoxed faces all evening long as a 23-year-old with absolutely no NFL experience carved up his defense. It was where Jon Gruden stood as Derek Carr and the Raiders offense could muster just three points against a 49ers team that entered the game allowing an average of 30 points per game, a 49ers team that had lost six straight games, and a 49ers team that struggles to just be competitive on a weekly basis.
If ever there was an opportunity for Gruden’s Raiders to actually win a football game (without the aid of some dreadful officiating and some questionable replay decisions), this would figure to be it. Instead, the Raiders looked like a group of men who have quit — on their coach, on their season, on any hope of not embarrassing themselves on national television — en route to absorbing a 34-3 loss in Santa Clara.
Thirty-four to three. Against a team that entered the night with a 1-7 record. Against a quarterback with absolutely no NFL experience. (Had I mentioned that yet?)
What a joke.
Not helping matters is the fact that every time Gruden opens his mouth, America laughs. Not just a chuckle, either. Full-on belly laughing follows whatever statement falls out of the mouth of the $100 million coach. Most recently, it was this line: “I get a lot of phone calls from people that are dying to come play here. I’m just telling you. They’re dying to play for the Raiders.”
Feels hard to believe.
Nevertheless, after an embarrassing thumping on national TV, Gruden doubled down on those comments.
“I see players after every game we play that want to be Raiders. That’s been the case my whole life,” said Gruden, who’s apparently been hearing such things for the past 55 years. “And I think the brand of the Raiders is an exciting one, and I think a lot of players no doubt do want to play for us in the future. And I’m not going to speculate any further than that. I’m not going to get into who calls me and who texts me. I’ve made a lot of friends in this business over the years.”
Hey man, I’ll tell you what. I get lot of texts and a lot of calls, everybody calling me up man and they’re saying they want to be Oakland Raiders. Can’t tell you who’s calling, man, and can’t tell you who’s talking to me after games, but trust me, man. The brand of the Oakland Raiders is strong.
He sounds like Chris Farley in Billy Madison. Who could possibly believe him? No, none of those people are calling. But you can imagine what it’d be like if they did, right? Right?
The Raiders are now 1-7. They own the 27th-ranked scoring offense and the 31st-ranked scoring defense. They’re tied for 28th in turnover differential. Their lone victory this season was suspect, and it came against the Browns.
While a case can be made that there remains a bright future for the Raiders, after their acquisition of multiple first-round picks and their positioning for the top overall draft pick in 2019, that doesn’t wash out the fact that the present day is really, really, tremendously terrible for a team that was a legitimate Super Bowl contender just two years ago.
Now? Now, well, just watch Raheem Mostert’s 52-yard touchdown run from Thursday night. Point out one single Oakland Raider who’s giving a full effort on that play. Go ahead, watch it. You can’t find it. What you see instead is a group of men in white jerseys being out of position, jogging to make up ground, and watching Mostert go completely untouched for 52 yards up the field. Fifty-two yards, slowed down by not even a single finger.
That is what happens when a new head coach comes in, applies concepts and ideologies that died in the NFL 10 or 15 years ago, trades away the team’s best player in Khalil Mack and then trades away one of the team’s best offensive players in Amari Cooper.
Put it all together, and the Raiders remain the laughingstock of the National Football League. It’s truly difficult to try to imagine things getting any worse, but with a reported nine years and $90 million left on his contract, Gruden will certainly be given the opportunity to test the depths.
Upon taking the job and signing that mega contract, Gruden stated publicly: “If I can’t get it done, I’m not going to take their money.” It might already be time for Gruden to start writing checks to his boss. This is as ugly as ugly can get.