SANTA CLARA -- The Raiders are a mess. They were in Thursday night's 34-3 loss to the 49ers, and have been all season.
It has as much to do with execution (which has been bad) and personnel (which isn’t good enough) as it does all that has surrounded the Raiders since the regular season began.
The Raiders traded Khalil Mack on Sept. 1 and Amari Cooper while coming off the bye for draft picks that won't help the 2018 Raiders, with trade rumors swirling around many members of this roster until Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.
Each reason for this disaster drags the others down, and has created a toxic brew that makes it tough for the Silver and Black to win games.
It was evident against the 49ers, who had one win entering the last true Bay Area rivalry game -- the Raiders are fleeing the coop in 2020, before the teams meet again -- and yet the Silver and Black suffered some setbacks and weren't able to compete.
“We lost a lot of linemen, which limited what we could do,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We struggled defensively again, and we gave up too many big plays. We fell behind and, given the circumstances, it was tough.”
Then, without being prompted, Gruden went big picture on his 1-7 Raiders.
“We have a long way to go,” Gruden said. “I take full responsibility for that.”
Gruden has taken responsibility for Raiders shortcomings before. He has freely admitted he's trying to win each week but also making moves he believes will benefit this team's long-term health.
Ignoring for a second whether all the capital compiled for future drafts and the salary-cap flexibility of not giving Cooper or Mack big deals will help the Raiders’ long-term health, it has hindered the 2018 squad’s ability to function well.
The impact on the squad is both direct and indirect. The trades and veteran cuts and free-agency mistakes are obvious. There’s all the talk surrounding a team falling well below expectation, which players try to keep outside the building but ultimately gets delivered via their cell phone.
“I can tell you there is no packing it in from this group,” said Frostee Rucker, defensive end and team captain. “You know, maybe some of the noise has gotten in. Maybe all this writing and stuff on social media gets in and takes a toll on some guys who listen to it. I’m a little bit older, and I don’t listen to it. Whatever it is, we have to figure it out soon.”