Coaching Is Costing the Oakland Raiders Victories

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystNovember 28, 2013

Getty Images

Apparently the Oakland Raiders were in a giving mood on Thanksgiving because they squandered a 21-7 lead in Dallas and lost to the Cowboys, 31-24. Jumping out to a lead in the first half and coming out flat in the second isn’t something new for the Raiders—it also isn’t the first time it has resulted in a loss.

Had the Raiders won last week at home, they would have been—at least for a week—in the hunt for the playoffs. The Raiders inexplicably didn’t use their timeouts at the end of that game and only had 10 seconds to try to get a score to win. Five days later, the Raiders are 4-8 and their is season all but over.

No one expected the Raiders to be good in 2013, but they have been competitive in 10 out of 12 of their games this season. The talent on the roster has been a lot better than advertised, but the inability of the coaching staff to adjust in the second half has cost the team multiple games.

For the 11th straight year, the Raiders will not have a winning season. The talent is an issue, but it’s become apparent over the last few weeks that coaching should shoulder a lot of the blame for another lost season.

Owner Mark Davis said he wanted to see improvement from the team in 2013, but the Raiders have won the same number of games as last season. There is no guarantee they will win another game either, so there is a chance they will finish with exactly the same record.

On Thursday, the coaching staff decided to play conservative defense at the end of the first half, and the Cowboys drove the length of the field in less than two minutes to cut Oakland’s lead to 21-14. The Raiders had built a 21-7 lead by aggressively blitzing and were set to receive the second-half kickoff.

The Raiders haven’t been able to get pressure on the quarterback rushing three or four all season, and any quality quarterback should be able to pick apart Oakland’s secondary. Tony Romo did just that, pulling the Cowboys within a score and setting the stage for their dominant second half.

Matt McGloin was brilliant in the first half, but Oakland’s offense ran four plays before punting on their opening drive of the second half. The Cowboys drove 87 yards for a touchdown on 10 plays on their first offensive drive of the second half to tie the game.

Oakland’s inability to make half-time adjustments has been a major problem for Oakland’s coaching staff. While their game plans seem to get the Raiders off to a fast start, they have been wasted in the second half as their opposition starts to figure things out.

Over the last two years, the Raiders have scored just 243 points in the second half—an average of just 8.1 points per game. Coming into Thursday’s game, the Raiders were 29th in the league and just ahead of the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars in second half scoring.

Oakland’s defense has been a little better in the second half this season than last season, having allowed 157 points after allowing 236 last year (13.1 points per game vs. 14.8 points per game). Despite the improvement, only the Tennessee Titans have allowed more second-half points than the Raiders over the last two years.

2012-2013 Second Half Scoring
TeamRankSecond Half PointsSecond Half Points AllowedSecond Half Differential

Coming into the game against the Cowboys, only the Jaguars have been worse in the second half than the Raiders when considering both offensive and defensive performance. The Jaguars are a distant last, but the Raiders aren’t much better and proved that to be the case again on Thursday.

It doesn’t help when the Raiders make questionable coaching decisions and play calls. After the Cowboys tied the game, the Raiders threw the ball three times with a young quarterback and a productive running game.

After the Cowboys sliced through Oakland’s defense and took the lead, the Raiders threw a deep back-shoulder fade on 3rd-and-4. Wide receiver Andre Holmes needed to make a better adjustment on the ball, but there was no reason to run the fade that deep when all the Raiders needed was four yards. The Raiders defense could have used the rest and a little time to review how the Cowboys were carving them like turkeys.

Oakland’s defense did finally get a stop and had great field position, but the coaching staff squandered another opportunity. Instead of throwing up a jump ball to a big receiver like Andre Holmes in the end zone—who had been making contested catches all game—McGloin threw it up for Jacoby Ford, who is 5’9”, and was intercepted.

The coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for making a talent-starved roster competitive, but they also deserve a lot of the blame for what has become a bad trend this season. Whether improvement in the competitive sense will be enough for their owner is unknown.

Head coach Dennis Allen is now on the hot seat, and he actually deserves to be there. While giving a young coach who came into a terrible situation three years seems wise, Allen’s inability to make adjustments could be reason enough to make a change next season.

With four games left, the Raiders still have a chance to go into next season with positive momentum if they can win a game or two. If the Raiders are going to win those games, they are going to need the coaches to do a better job—especially in the second half.