SANTA CLARA -- Recency bias prevents us from saying with complete certainty that this is the lowest moment in Oakland Raiders history. I mean, they once tried to kick a 76-yard field goal because a coach hated his boss.
But Thursday night’s 34-3 loss to Nick Mullens ... oh, and several other San Francisco 49ers, to be fair ... certainly is in the multiple-choice question. To describe their collective performance, their general body language and their relationship to their coach as rancid is to do a disservice to rancidity.
It isn't entirely fair to discredit the 49ers’ second win of the season by saying it came against this Raiders team. Mullens was precocious and impressive in his NFL debut, tight end George Kittle made one of the best catches of the season, the defense might be slowly improving and terrorized Derek Carr throughout the evening, and as a unit the 49ers embarrassed all the smart money in Las Vegas.
But the Raiders? They took a dead season and re-killed it. They turned the last eight games of the season and rendered them embarrassments in advance. They smeared every platitude, cliché and silver-lining suggestion that Jon Gruden will offer between now and Draft Day irrelevant and even mockable.
Once again, Gruden “took responsibility,” and once again Gruden talked about the injuries to the offensive line, and once again Gruden complained about the big plays the defense allowed. But that’s repetition, not improvement, and there almost certainly isn’t going to be any between now and season’s end.
It’s not so much that this is rock bottom for them and that things can’t get worse. It’s that things are the same, week in and week out, and losing by four-and-a-half scores to a team with the same number of wins (one) merely accentuates the dreadful sameness of the season. They are a bad team playing below their capabilities for a coach who looks every week as though he wants to coach anywhere else but where he is and coach anyone else but who he has.
And the optic of doing it against their soon-to-be-no-longer-a-rival, on national television (albeit before a small viewing share), against a quarterback whose last game was two years ago against Louisiana-Lafayette, in a game in which rabid bettors supported the Raiders so much that the Las Vegas bookmakers moved the line a whopping four-and-a-half points in four hours -- well, it makes an atrociously half-hearted performance that much worse.
And the idea that this will get better is absurd. The Raiders didn’t have much hope left this year, but this performance essentially killed it. Even if they squeeze out some out-of-context victory between now and New Year’s Day, they always will have this piping hot mess to top off a plateful of piping hot messes defining them as they embark on another rebuild that like most of the others will die upon launch.
These Raiders will be spoken of as people speak about the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. These Raiders will be held in low esteem against the Lane Kiffin team and the Dennis Allen teams and the Joe Bugel team and the Bill Callahan team and the Norv Turner team and the second Art Shell era team.
And none of them got 10-year contracts, and all of them took more responsibility (whatever that means) than Gruden has, or will. The “six to eight months of negativity” Gruden alluded to in his postgame-mortem actually was just two months, and it started in earnest when he decided to toss the season to teach Khalil Mack a lesson about not reporting to camp when told.
So, we have this. Or, most specifically, the Raiders have this. They have dismissed themselves for months and maybe years to come by their own hands, starting with those of their managing general visor.