Here is a link to my Monday column. The full text runs below:
Welcome to Oakland Raiders football, Jack Del Rio. Welcome to losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in your inaugural game, a game that promised so much until it didn’t.
You never thought being Raiders head coach would be a cinch. We understand that. But, admit it, you weren’t prepared for the total horror that prevails at O.Co. Coliseum. Always prevails. You didn’t think you’d lose 33-13, a proud man like you. And you never imagined facing the media afterward and answering unpleasant questions which really amounted to one question: “Why did your team suck so bad?”
You hated being put in a position like that. Your face was red and you worked hard to be composed, running your hand through your hair, staring at the ceiling. But it just burned you up how your team played. How you had to answer and then answer again. And how you had no answers. How you wanted to get the hell out of there. But you couldn’t.
Welcome to life with the Oakland Raiders, Jack. You had no idea life could be this hard. Near the end of your postgame news conference, I asked a question. I was the old guy sitting in the front row.
“Why are you confident your team will improve?” I said.
You looked at me with a sick smile. I understood, believe me. You laughed a sick laugh, a laugh filled with sorrow. Filled with Raiders sorrow — it comes to most Raiders coaches sooner or later. And then you gave a little speech:
“Because I’ve seen the work we put in,” you said. “I’ve seen the commitment level. I’ve seen the improvement over the course of the offseason. I feel like today was a moment where a couple of things kind of went wrong, didn’t go well and we had a little trouble finding ourselves. I believe we’ll settle down and understand the basic fundamentals that we’ve got to be able to execute to play good football, especially basic things you have to do. You have to leverage on tackles if you’re going to be any good on defense. I believe in blocking up front, being able to throw the football and catch it and just execute good football. I’ve seen enough examples of what it looks like to know that we are capable and we’ll be better.”
It’s comforting to know you think the Raiders will get better, Jack. Where your confidence comes from I don’t know — not after I saw that game. That embarrassment.
Let’s look at the words in your little speech.
Your team works hard and is committed. To which I say who cares? I mean, really, who cares? Every team works hard. Bottom line. If the team doesn’t play well in a game — the Raiders played like a bunch of beginners — work means zilch. Never ever mention hard work again, Jack. It’s beneath you. And so off the point.
You said “a couple of things went wrong.” Wrong answer. It’s not that a couple of things went wrong. Everything went wrong. From the start. Don’t kid yourself. The Bengals were having a ball because they were playing you and your team. And I can prove it.
In their first offensive series — we’re talking early in the first quarter — Cincinnati had fourth-and-1 at your 3-yard line. The score was 0-0. The Bengals were under no pressure. Could have kicked an easy field goal. Should have kicked an easy field goal. Taken a modest 3-0 lead.
Forget that. They went for it on fourth-and-1, and Jeremy Hill ran it in for a touchdown. Easy. Why did Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis go for it on fourth down? Because he did not respect your defense. No one respects your defense. And no one will respect your defense until it demands respect. When will it demand respect?
You said your team will settle down in the future. You gave no proof. How could you?
You said the Raiders need to play fundamental football. Finally, something of substance. The Raiders sure didn’t play fundamental football. Here’s how unfundamental they were.
They could not stop the Bengals running game. Really basic stuff stopping the run. You can’t stop the run, everything else is open to an offense. And it was. The Bengals rushed for 127 yards. Kind of obscene. And they ran up the middle. Nothing fancy. “I’m running. Try and tackle me. Are you tough enough?” No tackling, Jack. Not tough enough.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, a master of the Pick-6, looked like Joe Montana. He hit basic, no-frills passes over the middle and to the flat. Your guys didn’t have a clue. Your guys didn’t mount a pass rush, even with Aldon Smith. Your guys couldn’t run the ball — 63 yards net. Just awful.
No way to sugarcoat this, Jack. If your guys could not tackle or run or pass rush, whose fault is it? Yours. Well, let’s be fair. It’s not entirely your fault. You are yet another innocent who misunderstood the Raiders, the wretched of the Earth. Who thought your personality and work ethic could transform them.
Near the end of your news conference, you said, your voice plaintive, “At some point, we’ve got to start playing good football.”
No one could quarrel with that considering your debut is the second-worst debut of a Raiders coach — in terms of point differential — behind Tom Cable. It matched the start by Jon Gruden, not that Gruden had a bad career. When will the Raiders start playing good football? When will the Jack Del Rio Era begin? Are we talking weeks, months, years?
Until the Raiders improve, we reach the inevitable conclusion. Same as it ever was.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.