All the good feelings that came with beating the Kansas City Chiefs . . . poof.
The Raiders are awful again, destined for another year on the outside looking in at the elite of the NFL. Unless they beat Cleveland Sunday. Then they’re 4-3 and all is right with the world.
On to your mailbag questions:
Q: Do you think the Raiders move on from Trent Brown after this season? He’s obviously been injury prone but when he’s in the field, makes a huge impact. — @brwong24
Q: Johnathan Abram and Trent Brown are two of the best players on the team, but also the most unavailable, when does Jon Gruden move on from them? — @jack97041358
Since signing a four-year deal worth a maximum of $66 million after playing all 16 games and the postseason for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Trent Brown has played in 13 of 22 games since joining the Raiders. And in two of those games, he played six snaps (against Detroit last year) and four snaps (against Carolina this year). So he’s basically been available 11 times in 22 games. There is no denying Brown’s impact when he plays. He’s a game-changer.
After this season, the Raiders can walk away from the final two years of Brown’s contract, which will pay him $13.75 million and $15 million, with no dead money under the cap. This year, for instance, would have incurred $21.5 million in dead money. The Raiders will have some serious salary cap surgery to do next year and Brown’s figures are an easy target in cold, business terms. They could also ask him to take a pay cut, although most players in that situation would rather hit the market again and look for a another big payday — and I don’t blame them. It only makes sense for the Raiders to ride out this season and get what they can out of Brown because he’s a force when able to play. He’s just been unlucky. As for Abram, his most recent absence (COVID-19 reserve) was no fault of his own. He may be the most impactful defender they have. He is very much part of the future.
Q: Why are they not targeting Henry Ruggs more often? I don’t understand only three targets — Jon Youngberg (email)
That was my question to head coach Jon Gruden Monday. He said Ruggs was covered well — “blanketed” was the term he used. Said it was up to Ruggs to win one-on-one matchups and get open. But the low number of targets seemed odd to me as well. They can still scheme up some jet sweeps (they tried one and got 10 yards) or bubble screens for catch-and-run opportunities, right? Gruden seemed to concede that point.
Q: If ‘changes are coming’ in terms of personnel and scheme, what are those changes likely to be? Will high cost, continual underperformers like Cory Littleton, LaMarcus Joyner, and Maliek Collins be benched for other players like Amik Robertson, and Maurice Hurst, or will the Raiders trade for a player? — Dave Wilson (email UK Raider Nation)
The changes aren’t likely to leap off the screen. And they’re not going to start benching their premium free agents (in terms of what they paid) after six games when they had zero off-season and are still getting acclimated. Because of the pandemic, the Raiders bit off more than they could chew in free agency. The whole process is a crapshoot even in normal years. Teams that live to upgrade by free agency usually wind up regretting it.
Q: Gruden said Nick Kwiatkoski was the quarterback of the defense, yet on third and longs he comes off the field and Nick Morrow comes in Why? Kwiatkoski was a three-down LB with the Bears, I don’t get it. — @Devroyal7
Kwiatkoski was only a three-down linebacker for the Bears for a short period of time due to injury. He had better players around him and understood the system. He got hurt early. This goes back to my original point about free agency in general and specifically how it’s even more of a problem in a pandemic.
Q: Have you seen footage of the Gabe Jackson penalty? — @Ryp2020
Q: Was there footage of Gabe punching/ stepping on anybody, how is it OK to drag Gabe off the pile without consequence because we all saw that. What are is consequences, fine or suspension looming? — @bayfarmisland75
TV cameras at the game didn’t catch much. Since a referee said he stepped on someone, Jackson will probably get fined. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network said a suspension is unlikely. His information is solid when it comes to league matters. Can’t remember him getting anything wrong, which means he’s getting information from someone in the know. Looks like an unnecessary ejection that will result in a fine only.
Q: For the love of God why doesn’t Paul Guenther get fired? — @connorargueta
Q: What odds do you put on Guenther keeping his job through season’s end? — @jdixvx
OK, fire Guenther. And then what? Make Rod Marinelli the coordinator? It’s not as if the defensive line has covered itself in glory. Bring in someone with a scheme change with 10 games to play? You drafted and signed players based on a scheme, and then change it midstream? They’d be even more confused than they are now. Too early to bail at this point. So yes, Guenther makes it through the year.
Q: Why would we not go for it on fourth and inches inside the 20? It would have changed the whole game. We need a touchdown on that drive. We need to be aggressive. Why does Jon Gruden play so conservative? — @Carreno11B
Q: I know the book says to kick the field goal to go down four with lots of time left, but at what point do you go for it on fourth down when playing against an elite QB? The game fell apart after that decision. Trading field goals for touchdowns is no way to beat Tom Brady — @travisbrown100
Fourth-and-1 from the 17. Gruden says it was closer to two yards. Derek Carr said it was a “long” one yard. And in retrospect, taking the three points for 24-20 was a mistake. Gruden had too much faith in a defense that didn’t deserve it because they gave it right back up and were down 31-20. Surrendered a third-and-13 checkdown from Brady to Leonard Fournette that was a killer. Gruden would contend that was the big mistake rather than the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1. The fourth-and-1 Jeff Heath play was a gamble on the punt snap. They went for it on fourth-and-1 rather than give it back to Patrick Mahomes against the Chiefs. So he’ll take a calculated gamble now and then. But if you’re expecting Gruden to change in the big picture, don’t count on it. He’s conservative by nature. Always has been.
Q: Carl Nassib is making 7.75M this season and only played 31% of Raiders defensive snaps. Why he isn’t playing more? Has Gruden already regretted signing him? — @LeandroRaiders
If he regrets it, he’ll never say it. Certainly not six games into the season. But clearly the Raiders wanted and expected more based on what they paid. One thing that will earn Nassib some credit with the coaching staff is playing at all against Tampa Bay. The Raiders thought he may be headed for I.R. and he played. So they’ll give him a chance to get it going. Nassib was happy to come in as a 4-3 end instead of a 3-4 outside linebacker. The transition has been more difficult than he anticipated, apparently.
Q: Due to lack of training camp and pre season are acquired defensive free agents of 2020 and defensive draft picks of 2020 not fully up to speed with scheme and how the defensive coordinator wants them to play? Or is it lack of talent on defense and free agents we have picked up are simply not good enough? — @Aaronro00448431
Probably both. And it’s fair to hold Guenther and the defensive staff responsible for not finding ways to deploy players in a manner in which they can play fast without thinking as much. Making things more simple. And when it comes to free agency, you’re lucky if half of the players you sign actually work out as planned. I’ve repeated this dozens of times and will again. Tim Brown told me a long time ago no team ever loses a player it truly wants to keep.
Q: Is Gruden too close to Guenther to make the tough decision? Any other coach would’ve been relieved of his duties being constantly ranked in the bottom defensively. Marvin Lewis was the key to Guenther success in Cincinnati. — @adamgil11
You probably could have helped things if you’d have told Gruden that Lewis was responsible for anything Guenther did that was good. Seriously, Gruden and Guenther spent lots of time going over their thoughts on defensive football. Guenther worked with Gruden’s brother Jay in Cincinnati from 2011-14. Gruden believes in him. And Guenther had very little in terms of personnel until this season. Now he’s been dealt the pandemic and no offseason to integrate new faces. That’s all true. And it’s also true they should be much better. There are nine games to figure it out.
Q: Can you explain why the Raider brass doesn’t make more moves before the deadline like other top teams? An example would be Yannick Ngakoue — James McFarland (email)
The Raiders passed on Ngakoue, as well as Jadeveon Clowney, because of the amount of money it would have taken under this year’s salary cap and also next year’s. Next year is the great unknown because of the pandemic and its impact. And the Raiders are already going to be snug. Odds are those players would be one-year rentals, then go back on the market. They weren’t willing to do that, not after paying Nassib and Littleton in free agency. Maliek Collins is on a one-year deal, so he’s a different case. And he’s making less than half what Clowney and Ngakoue are making. Bottom line is getting a premium player in the middle of a season is rare. The Mike Haynes and Fred Deans of the world don’t come around often.
Q: How does Gruden feel about his defense giving up 30 plus points in every game this year ? — @Juniorhernadez6
The average is 32.8 (31st out of 32 teams), but they haven’t given up more than 30 every time. New Orleans had “only” 24. But I’m guessing he’s not thrilled with it.
Q: I’m just gonna say it. Any chance Jon Gruden is salty about being traded and is sabotaging the Raiders in cahoots with the league stemming back from lawsuits and relocations? I don’t get the allegiance to Guenther. Been bad for many years — @kevsteelcolla
Now there’s a conspiracy theory I haven’t heard. And I thought I had heard them all. Nice job.
Q: What are the positions Raiders should target at the trade deadline and should we trade anyone? — @PulseLivid
The Raiders need pass rushers. Good luck finding one. The only trade possibilities are usually young players who come with small contracts coveted by other teams. Except the Raiders want to keep all those players for the same reason.
Q: Are they going to trade Maliek Collins for Everson Griffin? — @SupWitBlood
Q: Everson Griffin, Carlos Dunlap or benching some starters? How would Jerry McDonald the defensive coordinator fix the pass rush? — @The_Autumn_Wind
Collins is on a one-year deal. Dallas may go into fire sale mode and they’ll want to restock with draft picks. They already let Collins go in free agency. Why would they be interested now? Jerry McDonald the defensive coordinator would have been fired a long time ago.
Q: Ask Jon to trade for JJ Watt please — @Blvk_hammer
Watt is due $17.5 million in salary next season. If you’ve seen the Raiders’ salary cap issues in 2021 you know that’s an issue — especially with the cap being stagnant because of loss of revenues because of the pandemic.
Q: Will the Raiders defense ever be good? — @The_Beterman
Been covering the Raiders since ’95. Have seen “good” very rarely, I’m afraid.