ALAMEDA — The problems that plagued the Oakland Raiders this season in their surprising fall from Super Bowl contender to a losing record went much deeper than any coach.
While coach Jack Del Rio paid the price for overseeing one of the league’s most disappointing teams this season, it will take more than just bringing in Jon Gruden or some other coach to turn Oakland around.
“For us as players, we need to be better,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We have to be more accountable. We have to be more demanding.”
That was missing this season as the Raiders (6-10) were unable to build on last year’s 12-win season that ended a 13-year playoff drought and reverted back to the losing ways that plagued this franchise since the team’s previous Super Bowl trip following the 2002 season in the year after Gruden left the organization for the first time.
The offense took a major step backward after firing coordinator Bill Musgrave and replacing him with the untested Todd Downing.
The defense showed no improvement the first 10 weeks under Ken Norton Jr. before making some progress after a mid-season change to John Pagano but it wasn’t enough.
The Raiders fell into a hole with a four-game losing streak early in the season and then collapsed with four straight losses down the stretch after getting back into contention.
That led to owner Mark Davis’ decision to fire Del Rio after three seasons with all signs pointing to Gruden returning as the team’s next coach. ESPN which employs Gruden as an announcer, has reported that the move will happen.
Whoever is hired will have a much better foundation than the one Del Rio inherited when he took over following a three-win season in 2014.
“For a while there, we didn’t have any winning seasons. He came in here and we were able to turn things around,” fullback Jamize Olawale said. “I think moving forward, the future is bright.”
Here are some issues the Raiders will face this offseason:
FIX THE CARR: The most puzzling development this season was the step back by Carr. He had become one of the league’s most promising passers after leading seven fourth-quarter comebacks in 2016.
But whether it was skittishness after a broken leg that ended 2016 and a back injury early this season, the coordinator change or some other factor, Carr looked little like the player who earned a $125 million contract last offseason. He tied his career high with 13 interceptions and most of his other numbers were the worst since his rookie season.
BEAST MODE: The Raiders lured Marshawn Lynch out of retirement in part for goodwill from the fans in Oakland, who wanted to cheer on a hometown favorite. Lynch proved to be more than that the second half of the season as he averaged 78.1 yards rushing per game over the final eight games, tied for third best in the league in that span. But whether that’s enough for the team to want him back for a second season will be a question this offseason.
CRABBY CRAB: Receiver Michael Crabtree mysteriously became a non-factor for the Raiders down the stretch after being an integral part of the team for most of his first three seasons in Oakland.