Watch coach Jack Del Rio’s postgame press conference from Buffalo, and then check out his Monday presser from Sarasota, Florida, where the Raiders are staying this week between East Coast games. (Both are available, at least in part, on the Internet.) Side by side, they could be before and after videos advertising a residential treatment program that offers vegetarian cuisine and poolside yoga.
Immediately after the Bills game, Del Rio seems perturbed. Glassy eyed. A bit frazzled. His face, sunburned since training camp, practically glows with intensity. His team has just lost a crucial football game by 20 points, and it is making the wheels inside Del Rio’s head spin like turbines. The day-after video is much more comforting. The coach has regained his sense of calm. He manages a few smiles. Even his sunburn has dimmed.
Del Rio will never be as generous with the media as his 49ers counterpart, Kyle Shanahan, who freely admits his bad decisions and breaks down the X’s and O’s of botched plays as if the interrogator is his offensive quality control coach.
But as Del Rio entertained a few captive beat writers in Sarasota on Monday afternoon, he dropped his bravado just a little. He didn’t exactly open a floodgate of information. But he was less guarded than we’re accustomed to seeing, especially in the wake of a loss. Del Rio was almost, dare I say it, confessional.
At one point, someone asked him about his defense failing to have recorded a single interception in the first half of the season, a statistic that does not seem real. Del Rio went big-picture in his answer.
“Part of it is, you know, how we play defensively, to let it rip,” he said. “Probably (been) overly cautious, trying too hard not to do things, as opposed to just playing and let it rip. I know (the) Raiders football team that I envisioned having. We’re not playing like that — what my vision is. We’re not playing like that right now. We need to be more physical up front offensively and defensively. We need to be playmakers aggressively going for the ball, competing. That’s what I’m looking for.”
The transcript doesn’t do the answer justice. Honest emotion animated his face as Del Rio described his vision.
And his analysis was spot-on. The Raiders weren’t particularly dominant when they raced to a 12-3 record before Derek Carr’s injury last year. But they were freewheeling, confident and fun. If the game was close in the final 5 minutes, they just knew it was theirs to win. That surety has largely disappeared this season. You get glimpses of the talent. But the Raiders, and especially their offense, are more tentative, more stilted.
After Oakland had beaten the Chiefs on Oct. 19, left tackle Donald Penn said he had been playing too conservatively, trying to be perfect instead of, as Del Rio says, “letting it rip.” The same could have been said about the whole offensive line. New coordinator Todd Downing is another likely suspect. This is his first year calling plays, and the whole operation looks disjointed compared to Bill Musgrave’s offense of 2016.
But there is another major contributor to the Raiders’ offensive flat tire. It’s the one nobody wants to talk about. It’s Derek Carr.