LAS VEGAS — The eleven players on the field for the Chiefs offense tied their arms around each other’s bodies, began moving their feet and swinging in a circle before breaking up the set. While they were leading the Raiders by two points late in the second quarter, they actually started another game, Ring Around the Rosie, on the field at Allegiant Stadium.
It was a message that the Raiders, in the last game of the regular season, at home and surrounded by a lot of redshirts in the stands, couldn’t make it. Any thing to stop them. Receiver Kadarius Toney set out to prove the Chiefs right when he scored after Jerick McKinnon took the snap, went down to Patrick Mahomes, and gave Mahomes back across the field to Toney.
So this is what just happened? 😂
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– NFL January 7, 2023
The score was called again due to a punishing penalty. On the next play, though, Toney proved the Chiefs right again when he took a handoff around left end for an 11-yard touchdown. This time, I counted. The Chiefs weren’t far ahead, yet they felt comfortable playing their opponent.
This is the height of disrespect.
“That’s just part of the game. Chiefs are the best of the best,” said Edge climber Max Crosby, adding that he didn’t think Chiefs coach Andy Reid was trying to embarrass the Raiders. “This is the team we’re chasing at the end of the day. So, it’s not about them, it’s about us. We just have to get better.”
The Raiders (6-11) would carry that with them into the offseason after suffering a 31-13 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs (14-3). Even though they had nothing left to play for, it remained a poignant reminder of how far they had gone in their efforts to catch up with Kansas City.
Going into the season, they didn’t expect to be so far behind. The Raiders changed the system, but after trading Davante Adams, signing Chandler Jones and regaining most of the key players who earned a playoff berth last season, they are still seen as a team that can compete in the AFC West.
The Raiders haven’t necessarily been a bad team this season. They have arguably three of the top 30 players in the league, Adams running back Josh Jacobs and Crosby. They blew five double-digit leads, but they had to be good enough to build those leads in the first place. Of the 11 losses, nine of them were by just one point. This season could easily have been a lot different.
“I feel like it starts with the view that we may have fallen short of our goal, but there’s no reason for people to view themselves as failures — players, coaches, anyone — that’s been part of the process,” tight end Darren Waller said. “It’s about doing things better, executing better in the long run when we need it most, and looking and being open and honest about how we need to do it.”
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The invaders didn’t even come close to sniffing out the chiefs who had somehow gotten around to it better Despite trading away from All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill. Owner Mark Davis, general manager Dave Ziegler, coach Josh McDaniels and the players are all to blame, but it will largely be up to the front office to find a way to bridge the gap this season.
“We know who we’re after, that’s for sure,” McDaniels said.
The first order of business would, of course, be to bring the Derek Carr era to its official resolution. It’s a foregone conclusion that the quarterback won’t return next season, but it’s still unclear whether the Raiders will be able to swing a deal — Carr has a no-trade clause he could theoretically use to block a trade — or should he cut it before it becomes his salary. for 2023 fully guaranteed on February 15th. No matter how the split goes, the Raiders have to find a new quarterback.
Jarrett Stidham has done great in his two games as a starter and may deserve a re-signing, but bringing him back with him on his own just won’t cut it if the goal is to compete with Mahomes and rising star quarterback Justin Herbert. They need to get a veteran via trade or sign, draft a rookie or put together a combination of both to give themselves a chance to make the ground, whether it be next season or in the future.
From there, all the Raiders have to do is give their terrible defense an overhaul and bolster an offensive line that has outperformed this season but remains an underperforming unit. They already have over $35 million in cap space according to Over the Cap, have ways to more than double that number and could pick a #6 pick in the NFL Draft depending on the rest of the results this weekend, but filling all of their needs at once remains a massive task that they haven’t. The current system is shown after being able to complete it successfully.
“Everywhere, we were able to diagnose exactly what led us to default like this and then fix it with the staff, the scheme, everything,” said Adams. “We have a lot of time to figure that out. Hopefully we can do something real — not drastic — but we have to make some changes.”
The fact is that, most likely, it will take several seasons for the Raiders to be able to challenge the bosses. As much as Davis didn’t want it to be, this is a rebuild. After finishing with a decisively losing record—once again—and being smoked by chiefs—once again—there is no way decision makers can make a credible argument otherwise.
“We knew when we came here that there would be an operation involved,” McDaniels said. “And I know people are sick and tired of hearing that word, but, look, this is the reality.”
Despite fan pleas — “Fire McDaniels” was trending on Twitter throughout the second half — duo Ziegler and McDaniels aren’t going anywhere. Davis is confident that they will be able to figure out a way to achieve sustainable success. Given that none of the three or four coaches he has hired so far have done so, however, it’s only fair that we’re pessimistic about making it happen.
Ziegler and McDaniels are likely to be remiss, too. And if that happened, Davis would have no one left to blame but himself.
(Top photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)