Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 15, 2018 at 12:24 am.

Raiders owner Davis tries to take blame for bad season

Numbed by the franchise’s most consistently bad play since 1962, Raider Nation will attempt to pay attention to the 1-8 team’s game at 2-7 Arizona Sunday against a background of front-office chatter that tries to throw blame for all the ugliness on owner Mark Davis and exonerate head coach Jon Gruden.

And, while that may be true, who cares?

Lest one of the franchise’s most painful seasons be lost in history, the 1962 team went 1-13, was poised to move (Portland that time), and damn well might have left were it not for the hiring of a new head coach the next year, a guy named Al Davis, father of Mark.

Yep, lots has happened since then, but the painful situation this year does have similarities.

The current team, set to move to Las Vegas by 2020, is difficult to witness for Raiders followers; most moves seem focused on resurrecting the franchise after the move; and Oakland fans tough enough to watch aren’t even sure they will have one more year to do so.

After last Sunday’s pathetic, 20-6, loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Davis had dinner with a group that included a few former Raiders players and the delightful Kim Bush, life-partner of the late Hall of Fame Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler. Paul Guiterrez of ESPN, from whence the Raiders also plucked Gruden, was at the dinner and Davis opened up to him on several topics, including. …

On the generally lousy condition of the roster:

“The buck stops with me,” Davis said to Gutierrez. “Where this team is right now is my fault.”

Furthermpre, Davis stands behind Gruden’s 10-year, $100 million contract.

Davis: “I understood it was going to be a lot of work, but Jon has a 10-year contract. I know how hard Jon Gruden works. I know how much he wants to win. And how much days like today are killing him. Having Jon Gruden here was the endgame for me. Jon’s going to be the stability here. Jon’s going nowhere. That’s just the way it is.”

On trading pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears:

“Jon wanted him,” said Davis, who said after the team gave quarterback Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension in 2017 that Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie offered Mack a deal that would have made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, but Mack and agent Joel Segal demurred. When Gruden arrived, he spoke to Mack, but Segal proposed a deal that “was not going to happen, was not doable for us.”

Added Davis: “From that point on, (Mack) would not talk to anyone in our organization — not Reggie (McKenzie) not Jon, not anybody. At that point, I said, ‘F- it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something.’

“Everybody thinks that Jon’s the one who wanted to get rid of him. Jon wanted him badly. Why wouldn’t you want this guy? Reggie wanted him badly. And I wanted him badly, too. But, if in fact we were going to give the type of money that we were going to give to him, and we had Derek on that type of a (contract), how were we going to go ahead and build this football team, with all the holes that we had?”

For those keeping tabs, Mack made two sacks last Sunday to bring his season total to seven. The Raiders as a team have eight.

Quarterback Derek Carr’s status:

Notably, Davis hedged on this topic, saying Carr is “the franchise quarterback right now,” and admitted that an inexperienced, injured offensive line and mediocre receivers are “not putting the fear of God in anybody.”

“Right now,” you say? Mmmm. Franchise quarterbacks are more than “right now.” Either they are right, or they are not. After five seasons, a team should now if it has THE franchise quarterback.

Raiders’ home for 2019:

Davis said he has a lease filled out, ready for the Oakland City Council to sign, and he wants to be in Oakland next season because he “can’t turn on the fans.” (Meaning, ironically, he cannot turn his back on them.)

This flies in the face of recent comments by newly re-elected Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf when asked recently if the Raiders made a good-faith effort to stay in Oakland — ever.

“Hell, no!” Schaaf said. “Unequivocally no. There was no good faith there at all.”

Of course, these can be categorized as hard stands in bargaining positions. But the resilient fans from the East Bay cannot find even a crumb of hope as their team prepares to leave one final time.

–Meanwhile, Gruden appreciates the owner’s good-faith gesture and postulates that these bad days for the Raiders will bear fruit, not adding that such a thing won’t ripen until the team is in Las Vegas in 2020.

Said Gruden: “This will be the foundation this organization leans on: mental toughness, physical toughness. I know it sounds corny to some people, but that’s the grit and toughness this organization was built on, and that is what we’ll continue to strive for.

“We’re going to keep working hard, keep preparing as hard as we can, keep developing the players that are here, and hopefully that translates into some wins. We have seven weeks to spend with these players. The future is something we’ll talk about later. Right now, it is hard to lose, but we are seeing some progress with our young players and some of these veteran guys are giving us everything they have.”

The coach did empathize with Davis’ pain, if not that of Oakland fans.

Gruden: “I feel Mark’s pain. … I talk to Mark after every game and these are unpleasant conversations. It’s tough, man, we want to win. We want to win. We also want to do right by this organization and some of these decisions have been really tough, but I want to deliver for him and his family, certainly, and this organization and right now, it’s tough. But it’s great to have him support me and I appreciate it. But I feel the same way he does — I just want to win.

“The Oakland Raiders, we’ve had a lot of change in this organization for the last 15, 20 years, and change is tough. … Change is tough on everybody. I’ll put a big exclamation point on that.”

Indeed, since Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay in 2002, the Raiders tried nine coaches in 15 seasons
— Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio.

And now they have come full circle.

SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 5-4. The last meeting was 2014 in Oakland with the Cardinals winning, 24-13. The Raiders last visited the desert for a regular-season contest in 2010, a game also won by the Cardinals, 24-23.