Only the Raiders could lose like this


Only the Raiders could lose like this

There has always been a substantive difference between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, and Sunday was the latest and greatest proof yet.
The 49ers elevate wins beyond their station and make the quarterback the recipient of all their love. The Raiders construct unimaginable ways to lose and curse the gods that incinerate them. These are their designated places in the Great Narrative, and so, apparently, shall it always be.
The 49ers are enthused beyond reason by their fourth win of the year, and all the credit apparently is going to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for setting up six field goals in a 25-23 win over the Tennessee Titans.
And the Raiders are encased in despair and rage after being out-index-carded and weird-fumbled in a preposterous 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that spits down the throat of conventional sport in almost Shakespearean ways – as in, “There are more whackadoodle things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your barely-a-rulebook.”
And you, the lucky fan, get to decide what matches your personality best.
Elsewhere, Comrade Maiocco explains how the 49ers are completely and utterly enthralled by their third consecutive victory, one in which they moved the ball with impunity all day long against the absurd Titans but only scored one touchdown and needed Robbie Gould to kick them back from the jaws of death.

Here, we will discuss how the Raiders – and ONLY the Raiders – could lose this way, with these things, done in these ways, and have it all explained by head coach Jack Del Rio by saying, “I don’t want to get fined.”
They lost because of a 21-yard fake punt by Dallas’ Chris Jones on a fourth-and-ten – with nearly 20 minutes still to play. They lost because quarterback Dak Prescott ran one yard and one folded index card in referee Gene Steratore’s pocket that didn’t fit between the first down stick and the ball on a fourth-and-one-yard-no-card-needed to keep the game-winning drive alive.
(Absurd Nonsense Addendum: Steratore told pool reporter Vic Tafur of The Athletic six times in six questions that he didn’t use the index card to make the ruling but only to “reaffirm” what he saw with his eyes, thus trying to render the nickname “The Office Depot Game” moot. Sorry, Geno, no dice. You did it, we saw it, and it lives forever).
And they lost because their own quarterback, Derek Carr, dove for a touchdown on a play that he had already converted for a desperately needed first down but fumbled out of the end zone with 39 seconds left, thus losing possession entirely and ruining a potentially great comeback. Better yet, it was a play he wouldn't have called had his favorite target, Michael Crabtree, had been in the game at the time rather than the concussion pup tent.
So allowable trickery beat them, a first-down conversion never conceived by humans before beat them, and a fumble that made a successful play they didn't want to run a disaster beat them.
Hell, it makes the 14 penalties for 100 yards an afterthought. It surely eliminates the value of Carr’s most intrepid game in three months.
And it leaves the poor unlucky bastards . . . err, the Raiders hoping for one bizarre combination of scenarii to occur in the final two weeks:
1.        The Raiders beating Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers.
2.        The Miami Dolphins beating Kansas City and Buffalo.
3.        The Tennessee Titans losing to the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville.
4.        The Bills losing to New England as well as Miami.
5.        The Baltimore Ravens beating either Indianapolis or Cincinnati.

*Raiders could make a five-way tie at 8-8 if the fifth team is the Chargers.
The odds of all these things happening, based on 100,000 simulations, is less than one percent. A lot less.
But that is, for the moment anyway, less important than the narratives. The 49ers and their fans will make as much out of their quarterback’s work in a game won by six field goals as the Raiders and their fans will make out of finding new and bizarre ways to turn gold into zinc and then into styrofoam packing peanuts.
And both teams and fan groups will find their own comfort in those massively divergent world views. One team waits for a quarterback to love and to love them back, and the other waits for a trick of circumstance to hate. It may explain why 49er fans live in hope even in the most ridiculous of times, and why Raider fans die in agony even in the most glorious events.
Besides, the index card really was a hell of a prop that will never be repeated. Nobody’s ever losing a game by outmoded office supplies again, damn it. Next time, knowing them, the Raiders will get beaten by solar flares from the eyes of Zeus.

New Raiders DC explains what attracted him to joining Jon Gruden


New Raiders DC explains what attracted him to joining Jon Gruden

Paul Guenther and Jay Gruden are great friends. The bond formed in Cincinnati, when both guys were Bengals assistants.

Jay Gruden moved on to Washington, and has been that club’s head coach since 2014. Last year, Jay Gruden tried to bring Guenther with him. The Bengals, however, wouldn’t let Guenther out of his contract.

It expired this month, allowing Jay’s brother Jon Gruden to purchase this hot commodity. The Bengals tried to keep him with a lucrative contract offer, but Guenther’s mind was made. He took the job as Gruden’s defensive coordinator, and the four-year contract that came with it. This is about more than money. Jon Gruden presented a unique opportunity worthy of Guenther moving on after 15 years in Cincinnati.

“I’ve known Jon for a long time,” Guenther said this week in a conference call. “Just the ability to come with him and start something fresh from the ground up really excited me. I’ve been in Cincinnati for a long time. My kids were basically raised there. I know a lot of the players. But to have this opportunity with Jon coming to the Raiders and the brand of the Raiders really attracted me. Overall, just an opportunity to come coach with him, see him do it, see how he runs this organization, this team, would be a great thing for me to learn from.”

The Guenther hire was important. He’ll be installing a new system and will have considerable clout running the defense with Gruden focused on the process of scoring points.

Guenther’s defense was built in Cincinnati, with current Minnesota head coach and former Bengals DC Mike Zimmer also contributing to the scheme. He runs a 4-3 defensive front with single-gap responsibilities. What you’ll see from Minnesota in the NFC championship will look a lot like the Silver and Black scheme next season.

“Structurally they’re very, very similar,” Guenther said. “I would say 80, 90 percent of the defense, the calls, the fronts, the coverages, the terminology is all about the same. I spent a long time with Mike. Really, when he came over from Dallas and Atlanta to Cincinnati, he had the system that was probably 60 percent intact and then we kind of built up to where we are today. Certainly, I have my own little things that I added to the defense as I went along. He’s added things. We’re always talking in the offseason, just because we’re close friends, about the things that he’s doing, things that I’m doing. I would say it’s very similar.”

The Bengals didn’t blltz much under Guenther, especially last season. He isn’t averse to bringing extra guys. He just didn’t need to dial up those plays with the Bengals pressuring the passer without extra help.

“It all depends on how many we can get home with four (pass rushers),” Guenther said. “I think the thing you really have to look at is the amount of pressure you’re getting on a quarterback. If you don’t have to blitz and you can get home with four guys.

“…I love blitzing, I got every blitz in the book up on my board here. We got it all – double A’s, overloads – any blitz you can imagine, we have it. That was what my role was with Mike Zimmer (when he was Bengals DC) coming up with the third-down blitzes. I’m certainly all for it, but I think from a team perspective, and you’ve got to really see how the game is going.”

Guenther inherits a defensive depth chart with some star power, young talent and holes aplenty. The Raiders have some issues at linebacker, safety, defensive tackle and cornerback. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are solid off the edge, but the unit needs a talent infusion. There’s roster flexibility, with high-priced veterans easily cut if Guenther and Gruden so choose.

“I believe there’s a lot of good players here, a lot of good, young players,” he said. “You’ve got to get them out and develop them and get them to understand your system. But I think there’s a lot of good pieces here for a foundation for sure. Obviously, every year, whether you’re the number one defense in the league or the number 32 defense in the league, you’re always looking to add pieces and fill out your lineup card. That’s what we’re going to be working through this spring and through the draft and through free agency as well as developing the young players that we have here. This day and age in the NFL when you draft guys and you think they’re worthy, you have to get them out on the field. You can’t sit on these guys for a couple of years because before you know it, their rookie contracts are over and they’re out the door. I certainly think there’s some good, young prospects here that I’m eager to work with.”

NFL review shows Raiders complied with Rooney Rule


NFL review shows Raiders complied with Rooney Rule

ALAMEDA — The NFL said Friday that the Oakland Raiders complied with the "Rooney Rule" when they hired Jon Gruden as head coach.

The league said a review found the Raiders conducted "bona fide" interviews with minority candidates during their search for a replacement for the fired Jack Del Rio. The "Rooney Rule" requires NFL teams to consider at least one minority candidate before making an offer to a head coaching candidate. The team officially hired Gruden on Jan. 6.

General manager Reggie McKenzie said last week that he fulfilled the Rooney Rule by interviewing two minority candidates. He interviewed former Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin for the position. 

The Fritz Pollard Alliance called for an investigation last week out of concern that Raiders owner Mark Davis came to an agreement with Gruden before the team interviewed any minority candidates. Raiders owner Mark Davis said during Gruden's introductory press conference that he was leaning towards Gruden after a Christmas meeting in Philadelphia. That timeline suggests Davis made up his mind to hire Gruden well before interviewing Johnson or Martin. 

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity on the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of NFL teams, believes the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule. 

“We strongly disagree with the NFL’s conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement. “We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.”

“...The NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance. Davis crossed the line, and we are disappointed in the League’s decision. The Rooney Rule and all of the League’s equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. We have called for meetings with the League to ensure that a process like this never happens again.”

NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Scott Bair contributed to this report.