SANTA CLARA -- The Raiders are terrible, and have been for some time. The record said so, forcing fans to look inside the game and outside the box score for signs of progress toward a brighter future.
There was no diamond in Thursday's rough. The Raiders were terrible in every phase, from start to finish, and were beaten 34-3 by the 49ers, a team that was 1-7 entering the game.
Let’s repeat that: 1-7.
The Raiders were 1-6 in their own right. That portends a close game, maybe even a sure victory with Derek Carr under center in silver and black and counterpart Nick Mullens making his NFL debut.
The Raiders were terrible, undoubtedly the worst team in the NFL. That’s been the case before, but even effort was called into question on defense at some points in this blowout.
Here are three quick takeaways from an unmitigated disaster:
Raiders still playing hard for Gruden?
Football players work in an ultra-violent environment where execution must precise or injuries happen. Calling a player’s effort into question is a delicate thing. Most of the time, it’s inappropriate and unfair.
There were a few instances, on long 49ers runs in the second half, where Raiders defenders seemed content to let yards pile up. Raheem Mostert’s 52-yard touchdown run was a prime example, as he zigged and zagged to the end zone without serious threat of being tackled.
It’s hard to put this on the players, who have weathered so many storms this season. Top players have been traded away, recent draft picks have been cut, the defense has been criticized by its own coaching staff, and several still on this team were subject to trade rumors over the past week. The promise of 2018 quickly washed away, and it’s clear to everyone the Raiders are rebuilding for a better future that won’t involve many currently on this roster.
Compensation is high in this league, but one has to wonder if players not part of a long-term vision will continue playing hard for this coaching staff. That’s a harsh question to be sure, but one that must be explored as this season carries on.
Guenther’s defense hits rock bottom
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said his unit was getting beat physically in recent poor performances. This wasn’t, Guenther said, just about missed assignments. He wasn’t wrong, even if it was a harsh thing to say.
The Raiders struggled to rush the passer whether or not Guenther blitzed. The team struggled to tackle well and cover quite long enough.
But this was the 49ers. This was the time to get right if there ever was one. Instead, the Raiders' defense never looked worse. They allowed the 49ers' ground game to roll without check, and then Nick Mullens sliced and diced in his NFL debut.
Let’s repeat: His. NFL. Debut.
This defensive performance isn't a one-off or a bad stretch. This is a regular thing and very well could be every week through the season’s second half. This isn’t fixable. The Raiders need a talent infusion and aren’t going to get one at this stage. That’ll come next offseason, through the draft and free agency.
The offense has been up and down, but winning games with this defense will prove highly unlikely.
No. 1 pick in sight
We wrote before this game about how much a loss would help secure the No. 1 overall draft pick. The odds were based on statistics and prediction algorithms.
Let’s just use our eyes for a second. The Raiders were far, far worse than another terrible team. They showed little fight when things got bad, and no real ability to remain competitive against a previously struggling 49ers team.
It’s hard to imagine the Raiders winning a game at this stage. A 1-15 record likely would lock down the No. 1 overall 2019 NFL draft pick – See?? Positivity!!!! – unless the New York Giants find this level of bad.
The Raiders have fallen so far since this summer, when optimism was high and fans believed the rhetoric that the Silver and Black were trying to win during their remaining time in Oakland.
A team that plays this bad stands zero chance of beating any NFL team, unless they luck into one and get up early, and maintain a lead. That’ll lead to a high pick Gruden can use to officially start his rebuild, which still is on the horizon. All he’s done to this stage is tear down things.