OAKLAND -- While Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars might have just been a Week 15 battle to most Raiders players, it certainly meant something more to Jon Gruden.
Unlike most of his players, Gruden has a real attachment to Oakland. He has talked at length about his love for Raider Nation and how much the city, organization and even the Coliseum have meant to him not only on a professional level, but on a personal one, as well. Gruden wanted to win Sunday's finale at Oakland Coliseum more than anything, and to think otherwise would be to disregard everything he's said about what the city and those who live and die with every snap the Raiders play mean to him.
Following the Raiders' stunning 20-16 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, the coach opened his press conference with a message to the fans. Both a thank you for years of dedication and an apology for blowing a 13-point second-half lead.
"I'd like to say we could have sent the Raiders fans off with a lot better finish than that," Gruden said. "I think, most importantly, before we talk about the game, I'd like to thank the fans. I'd like to thank the city of Oakland for supporting the Raiders and being faithful in all kinds of seasons. I'll miss them. I love them and I'm sorry about the outcome today, but I think that's something that needs to be said. An exclamation point.
"I really apologize that we weren't able to deliver a victory."
For three quarters Sunday, it looked like Gruden and the Raiders would say goodbye to Oakland with a win over the hapless Jaguars. They held a 16-3 lead at the half and the Jaguars only had two first downs midway through the third quarter. They led 16-13 with under six minutes to play.
Then, the wheels came off.
The Raiders got the ball with 5:15 left and went to work draining the clock. They went 38 yards in nine plays and drained the Jaguars of all their timeouts. On third-and-11 Carr threw a strike to Tyrell Williams that would have allowed the Raiders to get a first down and kneel out the clock. But the ball banged off his hands and onto the turf, forcing the Raiders to attempt a field goal to push the lead to six.
Daniel Carlson hooked his 50-yard attempt wide left. After a running into the kicker penalty gave the Raiders one more chance to get three, Carlson again hooked his kick left and the Jaguars got the ball on their own 35-yard line.
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew drove them 65 yards in seven plays, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley to stun the Raiders 20-16 and send those in attendance into a fury reserved for moments such as this,
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The loss left fans and players both shellshocked.
Nachos and bottles were hurled onto the field as the team exited after one final loss at the Coliseum. The Raiders now have lost four games in a row. They've gone from a 6-4 playoff-hopeful to a team that needs to win its final two games to finish at .500.
There will be no magical last playoff run in Oakland. Gruden couldn't even deliver a storybook ending against a Jags team that looked like it had quit in the first half.
Instead, his team stepped on a rake over and over again, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of everyone in attendance.
Gruden undoubtedly wishes the outcome was different. Both for the season and the game. The Oakland Raiders -- who will cease to exist in two weeks -- and their fans, deserved better. A city losing its team deserves a final party, like the one the Raiders thought they were giving them during a possible farewell win over the Broncos to end last season.
The inability to deliver in this final game, with so many generations of Raiders fans praying for one last Oakland win, clearly hit Gruden hard, whether he cares to admit it or not.
"It's not really the result today, it's the results of the Raiders over the years," Gruden said to close his press conference. "It's the Raiders, it's the appreciation, the loyalty that these fans I think have had for the Raiders. We're going to miss them. The relationship is hopefully never going to end.
"It was sad walking in here today. It's going to be sad walking out of here for the last time and it's a lot to wrap your arms around, but we love our fans, we love the city of Oakland. We thank them and we'll certainly miss them."
Then, he nodded his head and walked out of the press room at the Coliseum -- which is used as a batting cage during baseball season -- one final time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.