The raiders realist
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FSM Presents: The Raiders Realist – Just Average, Baby!

Franchise Sports Media

 

All winning teams are goal-oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives. They go about their business with blinders on; nothing will distract them from achieving their aims.

 

The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune

That is a quote from college football Hall of Fame head coach Lou Holtz. At times, it feels as though the difference between winning and losing in professional sports is some sliver of difference because of how relatively competitive many players and teams are. But in actuality, there are patterns that set the tone for the teams that win. It is the ultimate priority. Bill Belichick is the embodiment of this. Everything he is not personality wise, he is when it comes to winning. It is a top down obsession with the best and there is nothing ever too personal to interrupt that process.

The Las Vegas Raiders made what seemed to be a somewhat inevitable decision Tuesday morning, officially hiring Gus Bradley as their new defensive coordinator. Like many in the business of football, Bradley is by most accounts a genuinely decent person and has shown himself to be a reasonably good coach. There is a pedigree there, even if it comes with a pattern of diminishing returns recently.

Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Derwin James. Those are three All-Pro caliber defensive players. Three players in their prime far beyond anything the Raiders have or have had on their defensive roster in the last decade, with the exception of Khalil Mack. And none of them are walking through the door with a new defensive coordinator. That is hands down the biggest conflict with whoever was going to take this position.

 

The other concern is with the inability the Los Angeles Chargers had under Bradley to generate turnovers. Their 18 forced turnovers were just three more than the ultra vanilla defense coordinated by Paul Guenther and interim coordinator Rod Marinelli managed in 2020. Turning around an all time bad defense is going to require more than just incremental improvement.

 

The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: ESPN

For me though, this goes back to the very thing I spoke about previously, and it goes right to the top of this franchise. That is the troubling trend of head coach and de facto chief executive of football operations Jon Gruden and his preference for hiring coaches more for their relationships to him, than their actual track record of success. When it comes to winning, that is a secondary priority. The fact that Bradley was the immediate top choice despite having the 23rd ranked scoring defense is troubling to say the least.

The Raiders needed to absolutely swing for the fences with this choice. Instead, to use another sport for reference, Gruden worked a 10 pitch walk. That is not to say a walk can’t be valuable. It can be the spark for a huge rally. Just know that the walk in and of itself is not going to be the cause of the rally. When it comes to the recent history of Raiders defense, the steep drop off in talent Bradley inherits vs his personnel with the Chargers, and the Cover 3 scheme his reputation was built on fairly dependent on a four man pass rush the Raiders do not have (just 16 sacks from a 4-3 base defense in 2020), right now skepticism is warranted. Because to be quite frank, just like Guenther previously, it really seems from the outside that the Raiders just hired another coach whose resume is padded by past, not present accomplishment.

Ultimately, all of this returns to Jon Gruden. All of it. It is his rubber stamp finalizing decisions being made on the football side of things for the Raiders. And there are only so many fall guys a made man can have in this sport. So for his sake, and that of the Raider Nation, Gus Bradley better be an old dog that quickly learns some new tricks. Otherwise, the business of the Raiders and Gruden will continue to be that of mediocrity. That is a pattern that will have Chucky back in a broadcast booth sooner than later, even with the saint like patience of Mark Davis.

 

Pivoting away from the breaking news of the day, I would be remiss if I did not briefly speak on the Josh Jacobs traffic incident from last week. The single most lazy narrative I have heard was the attribution of this to the fact it happened in Las Vegas.

 

Raiders vs Buccaneers
Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

That is patently stupid. The notion that professional athletes are more inclined to be troublemakers because of their city is a trope at this point. The NHL’s Golden Knights and their lack of legal issues is proof of that.

That said, it does not make Jacobs innocent. The fact is, he was charged with failure to exercise due care, which is a nice legal way of saying he was a hazard on the road. And just because a person is under the legal limit to merit a Driving Under the Influence charge, clearly that does not mean they were not impaired. It does mean in the ever changing slippery slope of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, Jacobs will likely escape a suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

It is easy to be pious and ask of athletes things that we as regular people often fail to do ourselves. I get that and I am totally against that double standard. However, this is not one of those instances. I remember (barely at times) what it was to be 22. Youth has a built in level of ignorance. But I was not a multimillionaire at 22. In other words, the position afforded to professional athletes affords them opportunities to make choices other people often do not have.

 

There are times in life when the focus has to be about the macro and not the micro. Josh Jacobs chose the micro view last week and quite frankly, he is lucky his life was not completely altered as a result.

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