3 Reasons to Still Believe in Josh McDaniels, Raiders After 2-6 Start
Josh McDaniels and the 2022 Las Vegas Raiders have been one of the biggest disappointments of the season. There's no arguing against that.
After signing Derek Carr to an extension, moving past the Mike Mayock-Jon Gruden era with Dave Ziegler and McDaniels, trading for Davante Adams and signing Chandler Jones, this was a team that was expected to be in the thick of a competitive AFC West.
Instead, they are 2-6 and coming off a loss to the 3-6 Jacksonville Jaguars in which they blew a 17-point lead.
It's as frustrating as it gets in the NFL, and it's understandable that fans would be ready to throw in the towel on the McDaniels era already.
But moving on from McDaniels after just one season isn't the answer. There's reason to believe the former Patriots offensive coordinator can still turn things around and have this team competing in the near future.
Still Paying for Mistakes of Mike Mayock Era
While it's easy to point the finger at McDaniels and Ziegler for this season's failures, the truth is the biggest mistake was possibly overrating last year's team.
The Raiders overachieved by making the playoffs with interim coach Rich Bisaccia. They were 7-2 in one-score games but suffered five double-digit losses.
Essentially, they were good enough to be in close games and won at an unsustainable rate but bad enough to get blown out on a semi-regular basis.
Many of the problems for the Raiders come down to mistakes made by the previous regime.
It's no coincidence the Raiders elected not to pick up fifth-year options on three first-round picks from the Mayock era this offseason. Josh Jacobs has been huge for the Raiders, but Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram continue to be square pegs trying to fit in the round hole of Patrick Graham's scheme on defense.
The saga of Alex Leatherwood is another prime example. The Raiders offensive line has struggled to protect Derek Carr this season. Jermaine Eluemunor has been forced to fill in at right tackle, giving up two sacks, drawing five penalties and registering a 63.9 grade with PFF.
The 6'4", 345-pounder would likely fit in better as a guard, but the Raiders' hand has been forced because Alex Leatherwood—the team's first-round pick in 2021 under Mayock—was so bad they released him before the season.
It's hard to judge this regime with only one offseason to bring in their own guys.
Derek Carr Flexibility
The Raiders signed Derek Carr to a three-year extension this offseason, but the way the contract is structured leaves the team with plenty of options at quarterback in 2023.
If they believe Carr is still the guy at the end of the season, they can retain him at a fairly reasonable cap hit of $34.9 million. It would be the ninth-highest hit for a quarterback for that year.
If they don't, it opens up a few options that could ultimately benefit the team in the long run. Cutting the quarterback would only cost them $5.6 million in dead cap, thus saving the team the rest of his $34.9 million cap hit.
The same would be true if the Raiders decide to trade the quarterback. This season may have tanked his value somewhat, but looking at what teams like the Indianapolis Colts got for Carson Wentz or the Falcons got for Matt Ryan, the idea of trading the 31-year-old to a team and stockpiling some draft capital could kickstart a mini-rebuild.
It could also work as trade bait to move up the board to take a quarterback like Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
With the cap savings, extra picks and a potential franchise quarterback, the Raiders would be set up nicely to quickly turn things around.
Patience Is a Virtue
The impulsive thing to do would be to chalk up this whole mess to McDaniels and Ziegler, clean house and start all over again in 2023. That's a dangerous path to go down.
With the installment of McDaniels came a new offensive scheme. With McDaniels bringing on defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, the Raiders had to install a new paradigm on defense as well.
As Duron Harmon noted, Graham's scheme is not easy to learn.
“We have a complex scheme,” the safety told Vic Tafur of The Athletic. “There is a lot of communication and a lot of adjustments, but when you go against these high-powered offenses that we have been going against, you need it. You need bullets in the chamber so that you can keep giving the offense and the quarterback new looks.”
On one hand, it's frustrating. The totality of the Raiders' defense doesn't quite match the sum of its parts. On the other, if you fire McDaniels and his coaching staff, the unit will be back to square one learning someone else's schemes.
The Raiders may have some regret about McDaniels and his coaching staff, but at this point, it's best to stay the course and give them time to turn things around.