Sunday, after one of the worst defeats in the Raiders’ 63-year history, Davante Adams spoke the stark truth: “Just don’t have enough guys that are fully bought in.”
“Buy-in” is a precious, elusive commodity in the NFL, particularly for first-year coaches. Three of them – Kevin O’Connell of the Vikings (8-1), Brian Daboll of the Giants (7-2), and Mike McDaniel of the Dolphins (7-3) have earned it and ridden it to great starts. Josh McDaniels of the Raiders (2-7), not so much.
First impressions are critical. On arrival, new leadership is immediately faced with free agency and roster reshaping. Incumbent players are watching with extreme scrutiny.
Here were a few of the Raiders’ early moves, followed by likely reaction from the locker room….
- Move: In March, GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels declared that Alex Leatherwood, epic first-round bust, would be their starting right tackle. Likely player reaction: Wow, have these guys seen any tape of Alex?
- Move: Ziegler/McDaniels signed two running backs in free agency and drafted another two, despite inheriting an excellent 1-2 punch in Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake. Likely player reaction: They don’t appreciate who we have in Josh and Kenyan. One of them is going to be traded or cut.
- Move: Ziegler/McDaniels swapped out 27-year-old EDGE Yannick Ngakoue for 32-year-old Chandler Jones and gave Jones a $51 million contract. Likely player reaction: Yeah, former Patriot. This front office wants to sign a bunch of them.
Raiders Leadership Doesn’t Have Trust Of The Players
Players watched the draft hopefully. Would the club find help for its 26th-ranked defense or its bottom-five offensive line? Without first- and second-round picks surrendered in the Adams trade, no, not much.
Training camp arrived. The players were right, as usual. Leatherwood and Drake were cut. As camp ended, nine former Patriots were under contract.
The season began. Of the ex-Patriots, only safety Duron Harmon has made a meaningful contribution. Chandler Jones’ return on investment has been 0.5 sacks and 16 QB pressures. Ngakoue, meanwhile, has five sacks and 32 pressures for Indianapolis.
The team’s two most expensive free-agent signings behind Jones have bombed – CB Anthony Averett is currently graded 53.1 by Pro Football Focus, DT Bilal Nichols 50.6.
Drake, swooped up by Baltimore, is thriving on a playoff-bound team. Jacobs has become an every-down back for the Raiders, building an impressive résumé in his contract year. The four RBs imported by Ziegler/McDaniels have become irrelevant.
On Monday, McDaniels was asked to assess the state of his team. He replied, “We are building. I think there’s a process that we’re trying to go through.”
What? Now they claim to be building?
If so, why did they two months ago give a $51 million deal to 30-year-old TE Darren Waller who had TWO YEARS remaining on his contract?
And why did they take the all-in plunge on Adams who, fabulous as he is, will turn 30 next month? Ziegler and McDaniels badly misjudged this roster. It was not one receiver away from Super Bowl contention.
The Raiders’ present and future would be so much brighter if they held onto Davante’s $140 million, drafted a defensive piece in the first round and another defensive piece or receiver in the second round.
But those were decisions for February/March/April, when the new regime first arrived and locker-room commitment was available to be won.
Now, Davante is correct. Not enough players are buying in. Does he understand who is to blame?