The Las Vegas Raiders suffered an incredibly difficult defeat on Thursday, falling 17-16 to the struggling Los Angeles Rams. Their latest disappointment places first-year head coach Josh McDaniels under ongoing evaluation. The Raiders haven’t met expectations, but McDaniels is unlikely to be one-and-done.
That doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge the obvious. McDaniels’ Raiders continue finding new ways to lose games. Earlier this season, the Raiders lost to the Indianapolis Colts, who were debuting an unprepared interim head coach in Jeff Saturday. On Thursday, the Raiders lost to a Rams team that started Baker Mayfield approximately 48 hours after claiming the disgruntled quarterback off waivers. The Rams snapped a six-game losing streak against the Raiders, because of course they did.
The 5-8 Raiders are now 0-4 this season when leading by double digits at halftime. They’re the first team since 1930 to lose at least four such contests, per The Associated Press. The Rams’ 98-yard game-winning drive was the longest go-ahead touchdown that began with under two minutes to play over the previous 45 seasons, via the Elias Sports Bureau. McDaniels’ Raiders are still learning how to protect second-half leads.
The Raiders had actually been playing a better brand of football prior to Thursday’s setback. They had won two consecutive contests and had begun sneakily positioning themselves to make a run at the AFC’s seventh seed. That pipedream essentially evaporated on Thursday.
Despite his coaching struggles, all indications are that McDaniels is expected to return in 2023. It’s understandable despite what you think about their frequent breakdowns. As you may know, first-year general manager Dave Ziegler and McDaniels go way back. They grew up together in neighboring cities in Ohio. Ziegler and McDaniels both attended John Carroll University and spent time together as roommates.
McDaniels and Ziegler’s shared history in New England has been well documented. The current GM-head-coach combo spent nearly half a decade together under the tutelage of Bill Belichick in Foxboro. McDaniels won six Super Bowls with the Patriots. Ziegler was present for three Lombardi’s. It’s no surprise that Ziegler immediately appointed McDaniels upon receiving his first opportunity to lead a franchise.
That’s not to say Ziegler isn’t capable of making a difficult decision in the best interest of his franchise. Indicating otherwise would be an insult to Ziegler’s professionalism. It’s more about Ziegler’s faith in McDaniels as a head coach. Ziegler’s opinion of McDaniels is unlikely to waver after 13 regular-season contests. They’ve endured too much success together for Ziegler’s viewpoints to undergo swift overhauls.
Growing pains were expected. McDaniels installed a complex offensive system that’s been difficult for his players to execute with the desired consistency. The Raiders are averaging 23.7 points per contest. They’re the 12th-ranked scoring offense across the league. It’s actually 1.7 points more per game (22.0) than they averaged in 2021, but the numbers don’t tell the full story. Starting quarterback Derek Carr has looked frustrated with McDaniels’ play-calling tendencies and scheme. Carr is playing a level below what he’s capable of. Superstar receiver Davante Adams was acquired in the offseason, but even Adams hasn’t always been involved as a dominant boundary threat as he should be.
The Raiders’ defensive issues are at the heart of their struggles. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s unit is allowing 24.1 points per outing. They’re the eighth-worst scoring defense as things stand. Graham’s defense lacks talent, particularly at the second level with a lackluster group of linebackers and secondary defenders. The Chandler Jones signing has been an unmitigated disaster. The expected outcome is for the Raiders to look to add defensive talent throughout the upcoming offseason while running things back with McDaniels and Graham.
McDaniels has been a disappointment. The Raiders have failed to meet their postseason expectations. Raiders fans may continue calling for McDaniels’ job, but he’s far likelier to return in 2023. The Raiders will undergo stark personnel changes. Ziegler will overturn his roster while maintaining faith in Josh McDaniels and the staff he appointed.
- Feb 07, 2023
- Feb 07, 2023