Raiders

Raiders' possible Coliseum finale brings anything but Christmas cheer

Raiders' possible Coliseum finale brings anything but Christmas cheer

For all the time, care and diligence the NFL has put into keeping Eric Reid from testing positive for anything except basic bodily fluids, it could have applied a few minutes to the problem of the weekend.
 
Namely, flexing the Raiders’ game on Christmas Eve to another day and time. Say, like Sunday at 2 a.m.
 
You know the story by now – because of the happy confluence of construction deadlines in Nevada, local politics in Oakland and the general malaise that wraps itself around the football team like a Velcro skin, Monday night’s game between the gentlemen and the Denver Broncos has that worst of all possibilities.
 
A meaningless game that might have nothing, but meaning or might not. A celebration of football and secular-religious festivity that might turn into a stadium-wide brawl, or might not. A night of family bonding in which children want to talk about Santa while the adults would prefer to concentrate on Jon Gruden, or might not.
 
Monday night, and the last, maybe, Raider game ever in Oakland – a referendum on how many ways the Raiders can kill buzz on a night in which football really doesn’t belong anyway.
 
It still isn’t a guarantee that the Raiders will leave Oakland for good after Monday’s game, though the threat is clearly there since the city of Oakland decided to gamble a year’s rent to win hundreds of millions of dollars. All the Raiders have to do is find somewhere that will take them in 2019, a elaborate house hunt that might well end up in a figurative manger, if we must.
 
But for the moment, the spectre that this is the anti-est of climaxes is the thing that sells this game, with everything from empty sections and dispirited tailgaters to drunken protests and burning jerseys in the scrum.
 
And the NFL, which can move games from one country to another at the drop of a divot, decided that this king-hell bummer, scheduled at the worst conceivable time on the least attractive day, will show it all – the uncertainty, the angst, the bitterness, the betrayal, the way the stadium sausage is made.

I mean, who books this stuff, the White House?
 
First, the day itself. The NFL used to avoid Christmas and Christmas Eve like it feared divine retribution. It played the 1950 championship game in Cleveland on a Christmas Eve (the game drew less than 30,000 in an 80,000-seat stadium) and then went another two decades before playing the AFC first-round playoff games in 1971 on Christmas Day, and because people liked the two-overtime Kansas City Chiefs-Miami Dolphins game so much, the league stopped avoiding the Christmas holidays.
 
Because the NFL is, after all, bigger than Jesus.

[RELATED: How Raiders can broaden their search for new home stadium in 2019]
 
Okay, enough sectarianism. This isn’t really about playing on Christmas Eve anyway; the league has played 26 games on The Night Before Christmas in the last two years and the nation is no worse off than it would have been anyway, which is still pretty damned bad.
 
This is about the Raiders, and the last game that might not be. There isn’t a single story line that comes from this game that is good. Oakland depressed or Oakland enraged, empty seats or felonies on the half-shell.
 
It is more likely that Raider fans who believe this is the last waltz will skip the whole enterprise. Going back to 1981, there have been nine teams that have moved to another geographic area, and the only one that left a visible scar in the stadium was Cleveland in 1995 – and that town got a new team in four years.
 
But San Diego left 15,000 seats unbought for the Chargers' finale in 2016, as did St. Louis the year before. Houston drew only 15,131 to its last game before the Oilers changed names and relocated to Tennessee, and the previous final Raider game in Oakland in 1981 drew 10,000 below capacity in a 23-6 loss to the Chicago Bears.
 
In other words, people don’t do wakes unless they have to, and they certainly don’t see the value in going to a wake on Christmas Eve. In short, while the other events that make this franchise the hot mess it is were beyond the league’s control, scheduling this game on this night wasn’t.
 
But that’s Roger Goodell’s problem, and Mark Davis’ problem, and Libby Schaaf’s problem, and maybe even chief of police Anne Kirkpatrick’s problem. However this turns out, even if the Raiders sign that one last lease, this will be just one more septic backup, only with tinsel.
 
So ho, ho, and against our better judgment, ho. Current events eat history, and the future saddens more than it cheers. Meanwhile, the NFL has only two more opportunities to make sure Eric Reid's urine is clear.

Happy holidays, if that’s your idea of a good time.

Why Josh Jacobs is harsh grader even after his biggest Raiders games

Why Josh Jacobs is harsh grader even after his biggest Raiders games

ALAMEDA – Josh Jacobs had his best game as an NFL player in London, totaling massive numbers in a 24-21 victory over the Chicago Bears.

The Raiders rookie running back had 123 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, a monster sum that led the Raiders to a huge win that pushed them to 3-2 and into the thick of the AFC West race.

That’s a great game, right? Wrong, apparently.

The Raiders running back never judges his game based on the box score, and saw flaws aplenty in a seemingly standout performance in a series of excellent showings.

“People think I had a good game last weekend, but there was a lot that I need to improve on, a lot that I missed and a lot that I messed up,” Jacobs said. “From the outside looking in it probably looked good, but it really wasn’t that great.”

Jacobs said he missed a few protections, missed making proper reads. Then there was the audible call he missed that led to a turnover, and he said he took a play outside instead of cutting upfield.

Those mistakes are the focus over all the positives easily gleaned from that game, that Jacobs is a tough runner with patience and vision who finds unique ways to take extra yards required to keep the Raiders on schedule.

That’s part of Jacobs’ nature -- a trait that won’t ever go away. He’ll always be a hard grader, even when things look great to an untrained eye.

“That’s me wanting to be the best,” Jacobs said. “There’s always something you can improve on. That’s how I look at it. Some of the best games I’ve played in stats-wise, you wouldn’t notice the mistakes. For me, it’s about putting it all together.”

[RELATED: Carr making most of Raiders' revolving cast of receivers]

Jacobs might be honed on playing a truly complete game, but he has become an offensive centerpiece that his teammates certainly appreciate.

“Josh is a professional football player,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “…It’s unbelievable how good he is. I can give him the ball and he’ll make eight guys miss and we’re all high fiving after a first down. It’s a luxury as a quarterback, one of the things you see with Zeke Elliott or Saquon Barkley or Todd Gurley, guys who you can give the ball to and get 10 yards. It takes a lot of stress off a quarterback, a play caller and an offensive line that I guy can do things like that. …He has been good for us.”

Derek Carr making best of Raiders' revolving cast of wide receivers

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USATSI

Derek Carr making best of Raiders' revolving cast of wide receivers

ALAMEDA -- Oh, how things can change in six weeks. 

Prior to the start of the season, many had deemed it a "make-or-break" one for Derek Carr. After years of wide receivers being shuffled in and out of Oakland, Carr finally was expected to have an arsenal of playmakers at his disposal. A group that was expected to be there for years to come. 

The Raiders had gone from Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, Jordy Nelson and Cordarrelle Patterson, to Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and J.J. Nelson, not to mention tight end Darren Waller. 

But six weeks into the season, things look a little different for the Raiders at the receiver position than they expected. 

Brown went AWOL and got released prior to the start of the season. Williams was shuffled from the No. 2 receiver to the No. 1 and has been battling a foot ailment for the past three weeks. Nelson fought injuries before being cut, and Renfrow has faced some normal rookie growing pains. 

Head coach Jon Gruden has brought in Trevor Davis and Zay Jones by way of in-season trades, leaving Carr to develop new chemistry on the fly after a summer spent throwing passes to Brown, Williams, Nelson and Ryan Grant, who also has since been cut loose. 

The revolving door at wide receiver is something Carr got used to early in his career, and something he's trying to make the most of once again. 

"I don't even know what that means," Carr said while laughing after being asked what it would be like to have continuity at wideout. "Yeah, I don't even know what to say to that. You got me. That was a pretty funny one. I think the most stability I've had is when we had [Seth Roberts], [Amari Cooper] and [Michael Crabtree] for, what was it, two years? And that was pretty fun. But it is what it is, man. At the end of the day, no one cares in this league. You have to go out and perform and win football games. That's No. 1. 

"To be honest with you, it's kind of exciting," Carr continued. "I love the challenge. I wish it wasn't the case, but I do like the challenge. Because no one expected us in Indy or against Chicago to be able to throw the ball or do anything and we were able to go out there and play some good football. It is a fun challenge. I think we all do wish there was stability and we had our guys for the next 10 years, and hopefully, we do have them right now. Hopefully, these guys are it. I know they hope so. I know I hope so. 

"It's been a roller coaster of guys that we've had here and then not here and then back here again, so I just go with the flow. I'm just here to control what I can control and do my job."

The Raiders acquired Jones in a trade with the BIlls prior to the bye week, hoping to give Carr a vertical weapon they've been looking for since Brown was jettisoned. While it will take time to get the East Carolina product up to speed, Carr has been impressed with what he's seen so far. 

"Zay is a really good football player," Carr said. "When we traded for him, Lee Smith FaceTimed me and said, 'I can't believe it, man. You are absolutely going to love this guy.' I don't know what happened in Buffalo, to be honest with you, I wasn't paying much attention to other teams and their situations in-house. What I do know is that when he showed up I was like, 'Dang! Who's this guy?'

"All I know is that he's one of the most polite, humble, hard-working guys I've been around," Carr continued. "It means something to him and I'm glad we got him. And for what we gave up for him, you wouldn't think that's what he's worth. So I'm excited about the deal and I'm glad we have him." 

Jones got a crash course in the offense during the bye week and the Raiders hope he can be of some help Sunday when they travel to Green Bay to face the Packers. Carr knows the desired quarterback-receiver chemistry won't happen overnight, though. 

"There's timing with quarterbacks and receivers that you have to have," Carr said. "He's a good enough football player to where we can plug him and he can be productive. That second nature type stuff and second instinct kind of things, that will take a little bit of time, right? Those are just the cards we're dealt right now. But he's the type of guy and he's a super-smart football player where he can come in and play and help us. Which is very exciting."

[RELATED: Raiders preparing for tough task of stopping 'magician' Rodgers]

Despite the overall lack of weapons this season, Carr has played well for the most part. He's thrown for 1,117 yards, six touchdowns and just three interceptions while completing 73.3 percent of his passes. He's also played a key role in directing the Raiders' efficient running attack that helped Oakland secure back-to-back wins over the Colts and Bears before the bye week. 

One day the Raiders' revolving door of receivers will cease. Until then, it's up to Carr to make it work. That's just life in the NFL.