OAKLAND -- The Raiders are running on empty. They’ve lost too many over the trials of traveling so many miles, and they now seem set to crawl across this season’s finish line.
The Silver and Black survived on adrenaline for so long, but there’s simply nothing left. The Raiders might win another game or two, but it’s hard to imagine them playing well enough over four quarters to beat quality opposition.
The Raiders have valid reasons for wobbly legs. They have been dealing with drama since Antonio Brown went nuclear near summer’s end, with a steady stream of setbacks after that. Let’s not forget about the five-game road trip, the Vontaze Burfict suspension and all those injuries.
The instinct to excuse is strong and could explain this recent Raiders slide. Jon Gruden has gone down that road a few times this season, while ultimately assuming responsibility for this team’s shortcomings.
Derek Carr didn’t want to do that.
“Oh, it’s been crazy. Let’s not sugarcoat it,” Carr said Sunday after Oakland's 42-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans. “Let’s just be real about it. I’m into facts, and it’s been a really weird year. We can get into all the other stuff. Someone should write a book at some point about that, you know? Some of the stuff that went on, but nobody cares. I’m used to that.”
A book may detail this oddball season. The line on the Raiders’ 2019 Pro Football Reference page won’t include any of that. It’ll just reveal a record, some stats and a schedule’s results.
Maybe that’s fitting for a franchise with a simple, direct mantra: Just win, baby.
It’s not much different than Carr’s response to those asking how injuries and other setbacks impact how the team is playing now: Nobody cares.
We could also pair them together.
Nobody cares. Just win, baby.
“Nobody cares about the situation,” Carr said. “Nobody cares who is playing. Nobody cares who has been here, who has not been here. I have learned that in my six years. Nobody cares. We didn’t win the football game, and it is what it is.”
The Raiders didn’t win enough football games down the stretch. The Silver and Black were loving life after a three-game winning streak pushed them up to 6-4 and in a great position to earn a playoff berth.
Fans were stoked, especially those in Oakland to dared to dream about the final East Bay campaign extended to the postseason. It was then that the expectations changed. The bar was raised before the Raiders cleared the original height.
Let’s not forget this is a rebuilding team that always eyed 2020 to fight for division crowns and wild-card spots. The team needs another excellent draft class and a productive free-agent signing period to further what Gruden started after being hired in Jan. 2018. First, there was a teardown. Then there was an ascent that began in earnest this season but didn’t solve all of this team’s problems.
The offense received perceived quick fixes. Some worked (Trent Brown). Some didn’t (Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams). The defense was always another year away while the unit was rebuilt with the draft, largely from the ground up.
The Raiders played better than the sum of their parts around midseason and were able to notch some good wins. But all the fatigue and attrition put the Raiders in a position where they can’t make up for mistakes of any kind. If Brown and rookie running back Josh Jacobs are done for the year -- that’s certainly possible now that playoff prospects have essentially been dashed -- struggles should continue.
The next goal is to find a way to put on a good show in the final game played in Oakland. The Raiders have one left, coming up next week against Jacksonville. It might be tough considering the circumstances but, as we now know, nobody cares.
Just win the last one, baby.
“They deserve a fun showing, a fun game, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Carr said. “It’s honestly, it’s weird, it’s sad. I know some of the Raider faithful will probably be a little sad that it’s the last time, but it’s out of our control. I mean, it is what it is.”