I’m a Raider. It’s not a “popular” thing to be a Raider right now, but I am and I love it. I love the struggle of trying to fight back for our city when not a lot of people believe in us. People can try all they want to tear us apart, but it’s not happening to the real ones. 💀
Carr also tweeted a response to older brother Darren Carr, who had tweeted about the quarterback’s track record of playing through injuries.
Don’t even waste your time with this big bro. On the ground I yelled get me up get me. Then I got to the sideline and yelled again. Not one tear. Not one time. There is the Truth. People will click on it because it sounds crazy. But stop playing with me.
Darren Carr’s tweet was in response to a Pro Football Talk tweet about a story by The Athletic, which reported that Derek Carr has a “fractured relationship” with his Raiders teammates.
The Athletic, citing multiple sources, reported that teammates’ confidence in Carr “has waned,” in part, because of film that appeared to show the quarterback crying after taking a hit in Oakland’s loss to Seattle in Week 6.
The rebuilding Raiders (1-5) traded Cooper to the Cowboys for a 2019 first-round pick Monday. The Raiders also traded star pass-rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears before the season for two first-round picks.
Coach Jon Gruden told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on Monday that he has no plans to trade Carr, however.
“We’re not trading anyone else,” Gruden said when asked by Mortensen specifically about Carr. “We’re trying to stay competitive and figure out a way to compete this next game (against the Indianapolis Colts).”
Carr, who is the second season of a five-year extension that included $70 million he signed with the Raiders last year, has struggled in his first season with Gruden, throwing eight interceptions to just seven touchdowns in six games.
In the game against the Seahawks in London, he had 23 completions but averaged just 0.39 air yards on those passes. Since 2006, when ESPN first began tracking air yards, there have 3,481 instances of a quarterback completing 20 passes in a game, and no one averaged fewer air yards on their completions in those games than Carr.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie confirmed the trade Monday. Oakland will now have three first-round picks in 2019 after also getting the Chicago Bears‘ selection in last month’s Khalil Mack trade.
“I got a call from [Cowboys vice president] Stephen Jones this morning, he put it on the table, what he wanted to do, and he wanted the player, and he gave me the pick, and that’s what it came down to,” McKenzie said.
Cooper, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, has 22 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown in six games this season. He opened his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and made the Pro Bowl twice, but his numbers have fallen the past two seasons.
“I hate to see good players go, but I was on the practice field when Reggie came to me and said the Cowboys would do this for a No. 1 and I said, ‘Let’s do it,'” Raiders coach Jon Gruden told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. “We’re going to try to build this thing the right way. We now have five No. 1 picks in the next two years, so I’m excited about that.”
McKenzie said there had been interest in the 24-year-old Cooper from multiple teams this season, but he was holding out for an offer of a first-round pick, which the Cowboys delivered.
“I think he’s a first-round player, that’s why I had to get that first-round pick,” McKenzie said. “Now, has he been inconsistent? Absolutely. But, has he shown greatness? Absolutely. The consistency is something that I’m sure he’s worked on, and this guy’s still a young player. I think he’s going to do well down in Dallas.”
The 3-4 Cowboys had been doing their due diligence on receivers leading into the trade deadline and had zeroed in on Cooper, who became available in recent weeks with the Raiders’ 1-5 start in the first season of Gruden’s second stint as head coach.
The Cowboys placed Williams on injured reserve with a foot injury Oct. 6. Last week, Williams was suspended for three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Veteran Brice Butler, who was signed Sept. 18, was released Monday to make room for Cooper on the roster.
The passing game has struggled for most of the season, ranking 29th in the NFL. Beasley leads the Cowboys with 33 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns; no other wide receiver has more than 13 catches.
Gallup caught a 49-yard touchdown pass in Sunday’s loss to Washington and has 10 catches for 190 yards. Hurns has 13 catches for 158 yards and had his most productive game of the season against the Redskins with five catches for 74 yards.
Austin has been the big-play threat, with seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, but he is expected to miss multiple weeks with a groin injury.
The last time the Cowboys made a major in-season trade for a wide receiver was in 2008, when they acquired Roy Williams and a seventh-round pick from the Detroit Lions for their first-, third- and sixth-round picks.
Williams did not live up to the expectations after the trade, topping out at 38 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009. The Cowboys released Williams after the 2010 season.
Cooper is set to play 2019 under a fifth-year option worth roughly $13.9 million.
Salary-cap space will not be an issue for the Cowboys, although they want to re-sign leading pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, cornerback Byron Jones and can look at long-term deals for Ezekiel Elliott and Prescott as early as this offseason.
If Cooper provides Prescott, who is signed through 2019, with the outside threat the Cowboys have lacked this season, the quarterback’s chances of landing a big deal would increase.
Cooper is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after suffering the injury Oct. 14 in Oakland’s loss to Seattle in London.
The initial reaction to this move has been diametrically opposed to the chatter we saw the last time Gruden traded away one of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s star selections. When the Raiders traded Mack to the Bears for a package built around two first-rounders, the NFL world seemed shocked that the Raiders would settle for such a pittance. This time, Gruden and the organization have been lauded for nabbing a premium asset while getting rid of a player they clearly didn’t intend to re-sign.
When I wrote about the Mack trade, I tried to understand why the Raiders could justify getting rid of him. This time around, let’s look at things from the Cowboys’ perspective. What’s their logic in going after Cooper? Can we piece together a scenario in which they’re better off in the short term or long term by swapping their first-rounder for Cooper?
This trade isn’t really about Cooper. It’s about Dak Prescott and whether the Cowboys want to commit to Prescott at the going rate for a franchise quarterback once his contract is up after 2019. After a stunning 2016 season, Prescott took a step backward in 2017 and hasn’t been much better so far in 2018. The Cowboys have essentially wasted Prescott’s rookie contract with salary-cap missteps and injuries to would-be offensive contributors.
The biggest problem for Prescott, at least in 2018, has been the issue many expected before the season: He’s saddled with an absolutely abysmal group of receivers. Prescott does get to play with Ezekiel Elliott, but I ranked Dallas’ weapons 30th heading into the season, even with Zeke. Prescott’s best wideout this season has been slot receiver Cole Beasley, with the likes of Tavon Austin, Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns failing to consistently make plays. Top tight end Geoff Swaim, who had nine catches in his first three seasons, was on pace for 55 targets before he went down with a knee injury on Sunday.
No receiving corps in the league looked less imposing on paper heading into the season, and the Cowboys have lived down to expectations. The NFL’s Next Gen Stats reveal what Dak is dealing with, as the league tracks the yards of separation between a receiver and the closest defender when a pass arrives. Just 36.4 percent of Prescott’s passes have gone to open receivers (3-plus yards away from a defender) this season, the lowest rate in the league among quarterbacks with 200 or more attempts. The league average is 45 percent. Prescott’s average pass goes to a receiver with 2.9 yards of separation. Again, that’s last among the 22 qualifying passers. Just 43.9 percent of Prescott’s pass yards have been generated by receivers after the catch, which ranks 21st out of 22 passers.
Once Cooper clears the league’s concussion protocol, he should be a receiver capable of creating one-on-one separation for Prescott. Cooper has been targeted only 32 times this season, but he has averaged 3.4 yards of separation on throws 6 or more yards downfield, which is the best rate in the league. Over the past three seasons, Cooper ranks 16th in average separation at target among receivers with 200 or more targets, alongside wideouts such as Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Odell Beckham Jr., Adam Thielen and Antonio Brown.
Beasley also ranks highly in the separation stat, in part because he’s running routes out of the slot and rarely being thrown contested passes. The division of labor in the slot might become a problem for these Cowboys. When Cooper struggled to start the 2017 season, the Raiders helped spark their star wideout back to life by moving him into the slot, where he posted most of a 210-yard, two-touchdown game against the Chiefs. The Cowboys would likely be smart to give Cooper plenty of reps in the slot, but they would be doing so at the expense of Beasley.
Dallas can’t realistically evaluate whether Prescott is its quarterback of the future with the Cowboys’ pre-trade wideout corps. Trading for Cooper gives them a credible wideout with which to analyze Prescott. Cooper’s numbers have slipped over the past two seasons, but the former Alabama star hasn’t suffered the sort of lower-leg or foot injury that would sap his athleticism, and he doesn’t turn 25 until next June.
Unless there’s some missing piece of evidence, it’s difficult to figure out why Cooper has declined the past two seasons. Some of the blame has to go to the Raiders’ coaching staff. They let offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave leave after the 2016 season to promote quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, in part to prevent Downing from leaving for a coordinator’s job elsewhere. Downing was an absolute disaster in his season at the helm. Gruden is now the de facto offensive boss, and while Cooper hasn’t been 100 percent for much of the season, he racked up two 100-yard games in his first four starts before the trade was made.
Adam Schefter breaks down the Raiders’ trade of Amari Cooper to the Cowboys for a first-round pick.
The clock on a Prescott extension is ticking. If the Cowboys were absolutely sure they wanted to stay in the Dak business for the next several seasons, they would sign Prescott to an extension this offseason in advance of the final year of his rookie deal. It’s the same fourth-year timeframe the Raiders had with Derek Carr and the Seahawks used with Russell Wilson, each of whom were also mid-round picks without fifth-year options attached to their rookie contracts.
On current production, I’d lean toward the Cowboys giving Prescott an extension without the Cooper trade, but Dallas has reasonable concerns about whether Prescott can elevate his game with better wideout play. There isn’t really a recent precedent for a team moving on from a passer as effective as Prescott has been after his rookie deal without a serious injury involved, although in a league in which rookie contract quarterbacks are essentially keys to unlocking Super Bowl rosters, we’ll see a team go for it in the next few seasons.
Trading for Cooper now gives the Cowboys a season and a half to figure out whether Prescott is their guy. If Prescott works out, the Cowboys can use the threat of the franchise tag in 2020 to keep Prescott around in advance of a long-term deal, though that runs the risk of creating a Kirk Cousins-in-Washington problem. If not, the Cowboys can go after a new quarterback without having committed to Prescott in the long term, though they’ll be down a first-round pick in the process.
The problem with that math, of course, is that the Cowboys also have to figure out what to do with Cooper. They’re on the hook for only $411,765 this season, but Cooper’s fifth-year option comes in at $13.9 million in 2019. Even that represents a discount in a market in which Sammy Watkins is getting $16 million per year in free agency, but do the Cowboys really want to pay Cooper something north of $20 million per season to keep him from hitting free agency in 2020?
Making these time frames work is tough because the Cowboys can’t franchise — or threaten to franchise — both Cooper and Prescott in 2020. They can sign one of them this offseason to free up the franchise tag in 2020, but they would either be locking up Cooper to an extension after half of a season in Dallas or signing Prescott before they’re sure he’s their guy.
Given that the Cowboys already committed a first-round pick to acquire Cooper and are set to pay him nearly $14 million next year, my suspicion is that they’ll lock him up to an extension this offseason. They already have more than $111 million in projected cap space for 2019, and while Cooper isn’t a sure thing, the free-agent market isn’t likely to deliver a better option.
The top available wideouts in the 2019 free-agent class are likely to be veterans such as John Brown, Chris Hogan and Golden Tate. The guys from the 2014-15 drafts who aren’t yet re-signed and are likely to hit free agency this offseason aren’t inspiring. Would you rather pay Cooper $18 million per year on a new deal or spend $14 million per season to sign Devin Funchess? Players with questions, such as Kelvin Benjamin, Quincy Enunwa, and Robby Anderson, could go for $10 million or more per season. You can understand why the Cowboys looked at their options and preferred the idea of paying a premium to sign Cooper, who is younger and has a more inspiring track record than just about anyone they could’ve gone after in free agency.
There’s also a benefit for the Cowboys in terms of competing for the NFC East, which looks up for grabs after the Eagles got off to a slow start. With the Giants quickly fading out of the race and turning it into a three-team battle, the 3-4 Cowboys have seen their odds of winning the division jump from 22.2 percent before the season to 30.7 percent after seven weeks, per ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Cooper isn’t going to swing the division on his own, but the trade addresses the weakest point of Dallas’ roster with enough time for the Cowboys to seriously shift things over the final nine games of the season. Does Cooper win them the game over the Texans, in which the Cowboys could barely move the ball in the second half? Is he enough of a weapon for Jason Garrett to trust Prescott with 52 seconds left in Sunday’s loss to Washington? I’m not sure, but it’s hard to argue that the Cowboys aren’t in better shape than they were yesterday.
Of course, it’s easy to improve when a team gives up a first-round pick, and the Cowboys incur an opportunity cost by not being able to get a player at relatively low cost over the next four seasons. Just as the Mack trade left the Bears implicitly pricing their star edge rusher at something north of $30 million per season, the Cowboys are likely going to be paying Cooper something close to $23-24 million per year when factoring in a new deal and the value they forfeited with a first-round pick. Cooper can make that work if he turns back into a superstar, but the Cowboys aren’t likely to realize much (if any) surplus value on this contract. They’ll also miss out on adding a first-rounder to help in the secondary or along the offensive line, where their once-vaunted unit has been ripped apart by injuries the past two seasons.
The very long term
As for Oakland’s side of things, it’s easier to understand. When you’re having a fire sale, you sell things. The Raiders quite clearly didn’t intend to give Cooper an extension after the 2019 season, and they’re better off trading a guy sooner rather than later if they don’t want to pay a premium. Getting rid of Cooper limits the extent to which the Raiders can evaluate Derek Carr, but the trade seems to confirm that Gruden might have already made up his mind about Carr.
If he doesn’t think his team can win and wants to rebuild the team in his image, going after draft picks makes sense. My concern would be less about the picks and more about the veterans. In the early days of the McKenzie era, Oakland struggled to attract veteran free agents because nobody wanted to come play on a miserable team in an antiquated stadium. The Raiders had to target veterans who were past their primes or massively overpay midtier starters until they showed signs of life with Carr, Cooper and Mack in 2015. One year later, with the help of additions such as Bruce Irvin and Kelechi Osemele, the Raiders went 12-4 and won the division.
Now, though, the Raiders are back to square one. Why would any veteran player want to come play for the Raiders under Gruden when they’re clearly not committed to winning in the near future? The Raiders don’t really have any promising, young players left on the roster who aren’t on veteran contracts, but if Cooper had stuck around, why would he want to play for a coach who doesn’t seem to want to pay young players who break out on their rookie deals? Who would play for the Raiders right now if given a choice to play anywhere else in the league? It’s fair to wonder whether Gruden, who has publicly thrown players such as Carr and Rashaan Melvin under the bus in recent weeks, has poisoned the well.
If you go to Las Vegas, you’ll see a billboard towering above the future site of the Raiders’ stadium, advertising the arrival of its future tenants. Most team billboards have a shot of the star quarterback or a dynamic skill-position player. The only person depicted on the Raiders’ billboard is the coach. Given what we’ve seen from Gruden so far, it’s fair to wonder whether he’ll be the only current member of this organization actually making his way to the desert for the team’s projected debut in 2020.
He would be eligible to return for the Christmas Eve game against Denver in Week 16.
Lynch suffered the injury during the Raiders’ Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in London. He was trying to pull his right leg out of the grasp of Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin when linebacker Austin Calitro leveled Lynch, who landed awkwardly and stayed on the Wembley Stadium pitch for a moment before gingerly jogging off the field.
Lynch, 32, has rushed for a team-high 376 yards on 90 carries (4.2-yard average) and three touchdowns in 2018. He also has 15 receptions for 84 yards.
The five-time Pro Bowler’s two-year contract is up after this season; it pays him a fully guaranteed $2.5 million in base salary after he restructured it this offseason, though it carries a salary-cap number of more than $4.45 million for 2018, per ESPN Stats & Information data. Lynch received a $1 million roster bonus on the 11th day of the league year, and he already has accrued $281,250 in roster bonuses ($46,875 per game on the Raiders’ 46-man roster, with a max of $750,000). He would miss out on $468,750 in bonuses if he did not play another game this season; he stood to earn up to $3.75 million in yards and touchdown incentives.
With Lynch out, veteran Doug Martin figures to become the No. 1 back for Oakland (1-5), which returns from its Week 7 bye to host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
LONDON — Derek Carr stood at the podium, talking and motioning solely with his right hand as his left shoulder looked frozen in place. The Oakland Raiders‘ $125 million quarterback kept his left hand in his pocket, almost as if to keep the arm and shoulder stationary, during his 11-minute media appearance.
Midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks — a game in which Carr was hit 10 times and sacked six times — Carr was pounded to the Wembley Stadium pitch especially hard as Seattle’s Jarran Reed drove Carr’s left shoulder into the ground.
“Just a little bruise,” Carr insisted. “I’ll be all right.”
Will he though?
Carr has looked a shell of his 2016 self, when he authored seven comeback victories and finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting. At best this season he has shown flashes of the gunslinger who steps into throws and takes off running for first downs. At worst he looks lost in his own head, if not in Jon Gruden’s complicated offense.
To be fair, Carr is on his fourth different playcaller in his fifth NFL season. Carr’s best year came the only time in which he had the same offensive coordinator for a second straight season — Bill Musgrave, in 2016. It would only be human if the injuries — a broken pinkie finger on his right (passing) hand, a fractured right fibula and three broken bones in his back in less than 11 months — were still in his head.
Especially with the pain he showed coming off the field and into the sideline medical tent against the Seahawks.
But wasn’t Gruden hired with the intention of “fixing” Carr? Were they not supposed to make beautiful music together as Gruden finally had a franchise-type quarterback in his prime?
Yeah, about that …
Carr, with eight interceptions and two lost fumbles, leads the NFL with 10 giveaways, and the Raiders are bottom feeders at 1-5 heading into their bye week.
In Gruden’s dink-and-dunk version of the West Coast offense, Carr is getting rid of the ball faster than any NFL quarterback at 2.41 seconds, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Sure, Carr has had the reputation of being a guy that relishes taking deep shots, but he won’t be compared to the Mad Bomber Daryle Lamonica anytime soon.
Consider: While Carr’s average pass has never traveled that far downfield (7.4 yards for his NFL career), he has been ultraconservative under Gruden. Because among QBs with at least 100 passes this season, his pass on average is traveling an NFL-low 5.73 yards downfield. The NFL average passing distance among quarterbacks with that many attempts this season is 7.9 yards, with Carr’s average the only one under 6 yards.
On the flip side, though, Carr’s short passing distance has led to him having the lowest off-target rate in the league, 7.6 percent. ESPN Stats & Information defines “off target” as the percentage of passes over- or underthrown by a quarterback. And he is competing 71.7 percent of his passes thus far, after completing 58.1, 61.1, 63.8 and 62.7 percent in his first four seasons.
And therin lies an issue — Gruden wants Carr to be aggressive, but not reckless. Push the envelope, just not too far. Take your shots, but be smart about it.
Sounds like the job description of any NFL QB, right? It’s just that the Carr-Gruden dynamic is so unique, with Gruden coming out of ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth after nine seasons to coach Carr in his decidedly old-school ways. Which make it look like, at times, Carr can’t get out of his own way. Almost as if Carr is playing to please his coach by overthinking things, rather than just, well, playing.
Some of Carr’s issues, though, predate Gruden’s arrival. They actually started to rear their head under former offensive coordinator Todd Downing last season.
As ESPN Stats & Information found, Carr leads the NFL in interceptions on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield with 10 since 2017. He only threw two picks on such throws in 2016. Since the start of last season, Carr has only completed 33.3 percent of passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, compared to 49.0 in 2016. His yards-per-attempt average the past two seasons is 12.2 yards, when it was 16.7 yards two seasons ago on throws of at least 20 yards downfield.
Carr told Gruden on his QB Camp show coming out of Fresno State in 2014 that he could make “any throw” in the NFL.
Welp, the threading of the needle needs some help.
The past two seasons, NFL Next Gen Stats has Carr as the league’s worst quarterback when it comes to forcing the ball into tight windows, as in an NFL-high 13 interceptions when throwing a pass to a receiver who has 1 yard or less of separation as the pass arrives. The New York Giants‘ Eli Manning is second with nine INTs in those situations.
More from NFL Next Gen Stats: Among 34 quarterbacks with at least 50 tight-window attempts since the start of 2017, Carr’s 28 percent completion rate on those passes is the third-worst in the NFL.
Of course, being under constant duress would have an effect on Carr’s accuracy. He is on pace to be sacked 45 times this season. His career high is 41 in 2015; he was sacked 16 times in all of 2016.
Having two rookies at the tackle positions, an injured first-rounder in Kolton Miller on the left side and third-rounder Brandon Parker on the right side, as well as a third-string left guard in Justin Murray do not help matters.
“We’re going to have to do the best we can to find five men that can collectively pass protect much better,” Gruden said. “And that’s what we’ll do.”
They need to. ESPN Stats & Information found that Carr has five INTs and no TDs when pressured this season, the most such picks by any quarterback in the league.
And Carr could also stand to get more help from his pass-catchers.
Since entering the league four years ago, 124 of Carr’s passes have been dropped, tying him with Manning for most in the NFL during that time frame.
There’s a few reasons Carr did not go back into the game Sunday after taking that final sack — the Seahawks ran out the final 8:18 and Carr’s shoulder was banged up. But even as Carr pleaded with Gruden to go back in the game had Oakland gotten the ball back, Gruden had seen enough.
“Losses happen, bad things happen,” Carr said. “But not being able to finish a game with your team, especially when you’re losing? Man, that will rip your heart out. No matter how I feel, I wanted to finish. But coach, it’s his job. He wanted to protect me, that’s all.”
“I’ve been a part of things like this where it’s hard at first, but I tell them all the time, I promise you, when we’re on the other side of this, it will be so worth it,” Carr said. “Do not hang your head for a second.”
Carr was talking about the Raiders rookies. He might as well have been looking at Gruden, or in a mirror.
LONDON — The singsong chants of “RAI-DERS! RAI-DERS! RAI-DERS!” had been echoing off this ancient city’s walls for more than an hour. They grew louder with more passion whenever someone walking on the street was spotted wearing silver and black and answered with the same guttural call.
Boos, good-natured but still, lusty boos would rain down upon the poor sap sporting blue and green or any hue of Seattle Seahawks gear.
Welcome, then, to a rollicking, open-top, double-decker bus tour on Friday with Oakland Raiders fans in town from as far away as California and Washington and as close as Brighton and Liverpool for Sunday’s game between the Raiders and Seahawks at Wembley Stadium.
“Mostly, it’s like a good family reunion,” said Anthony Santoro, a senior tech writer and video producer for a software company in Germany who was rocking a white old-school Tim Brown jersey with the No. 81. “I get to spend time with friends and ‘blood’ from all over that I’ve met at different events and different points in my life. It’s easy to remain in touch, but that’s not the same as being able to actually spend meaningful time rekindling and deepening friendships and relationships with good people.
“We share something that is important to us for our own reasons and in our own ways, but because it is an emotionally driven connection, it facilitates people just getting to know each other and become friends.”
Organized by the Silver & Black UK fan club, the bus tour was one of several excursions put on by the non-profit outfit, which gives proceeds to Raiders Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff’s foundation.
Thursday night, more than 130 Raiders fans paid 15 pounds apiece to walk Jack the Ripper’s path and learn the history of the infamous mass murderer before adjourning to a neighborhood pub, The Ten Bells, for libations.
A regular saw the number of Raiders jerseys — yes, that was the head of the Sweden Raiders fan club showing off his Raiders-related tattoos — caps and body art and exclaimed, “I’ve never seen so many Yanks in East London!”
Which, of course, served to elicit more “RAI-DERS!” chants.
Fans paid 15 pounds to ride on the top of the bus, 10 pounds to ride inside, and rub shoulders with the likes of “super” fan characters Crusader Raider, Raider Pimp, Crossbones Kelly, Captain Jack and see the London sights.
“When we were here in 2014, you had a pimp, a knight and a gorilla on the bus and London was wondering, What’s going on?” laughed Crusader Raider, who was the first international fan to be recognized in Canton.
“Raider Nation is worldwide and London is being hit by the nation today.”
Along the two-plus-hour route, the bus passed many London landmarks, from the Royal Courts of Justice to Piccadilly Circus to Big Ben to the London Eye to Westminster Abbey — “That’s where Harry and Meghan were just married,” ESPN’s Samantha Quek, a gold medalist on Great Britain’s 2016 Olympic women’s field hockey team, pointed out — to St. Paul’s Cathedral to Tower Bridge to the River Thames to Buckingham Palace.
And the chants grew only louder with each photo opportunity.
Even as one lady, in what Quek said was an especially thick Sussex accent, yelled from the sidewalk to the bus, “Raiders? What is that?”
Nearly 200 fans purchased tickets for three bus tours.
“It all started with a tweet,” Oli DeRuyte, a co-founder of Silver & Black UK, said of his group, which numbers 160 members strong.
“Silver & Black UK in my eyes is the epitome of Raider Nation — a gathering of the true worldwide Raider Nation who party together, celebrate together and work hard to raise funds for amazing foundations either side of the pond.”
“It’s a way to keep a meaningful social connection that is special because it has a discrete place outside of our real lives,” Santoro said. “And from another perspective, it’s a great case study in the diverse tribalism that seems to be fundamentally human, for better or worse.”
Deep, right? Welcome to the Raider Nation and all that implies.
How global is the Raiders brand? A Danish TV station said the hook for its Thursday night show was the Jon Gruden Meter, where fans could sound off on how much they like the Raiders coach that week.
DeRuyte & Co. had only a few hours to get ready for the next event: a dinner and party with special guests Biletnikoff, Mike Davis, Darren McFadden and the Raiderettes.
That was before the group was to take in a soccer match between Leyton Orient and Hartepool United, for 10 pounds a person with some proceeds going to the Biletnikoff Foundation.
It is all to whet the appetite for Sunday’s main event: the Raiders and Seahawks.
The Raiders do not have a home for 2019 … yet. There is no lease agreement agreed to for the Raiders to return to the Oakland Coliseum next year. And if the city of Oakland decides to file a lawsuit against the team, in part, because it is moving to Las Vegas in 2020, the Raiders are contemplating leaving the Bay Area entirely for a year, with San Diego a potential front-runner.
Fans in England see an opportunity. One that includes the 2019 London Raiders?
“For me, personally, living 10 miles from here, it’s great,” Crusader Raider said on the bus. “I live 5,642 miles from the Oakland Coliseum, so it’s a little bit further to go. But the bottom line is, wherever the Raiders are, whether we’re here, San Diego, London, Oakland, we are the Raider Nation. Yes, we love Oakland, we would love to stay in Oakland, but we are the nation. And the nation will represent wherever we are.”
And when it comes to the Raiders and London?
“There’s just three words you need to know,” he said. “Fish. And. Chips.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. — The family story is nearing its 100th birthday now, but to Tom Flores, the Oakland Raiders’ two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, it never gets old.
Not when it’s such a point of pride for Flores and his familia.
Flores’ father, Tom Sr., was 12 years old in 1919, one of seven children whose family worked in the hills of the pueblo of Dynamite in the Mexican state of Durango. There, they mined for materials to make explosives — when they were not ducking for cover with marauders claiming loyalty to Pancho Villa ransacking the village.
“They didn’t fight them off, but they had to avoid them,” Flores said of his forebears. “My dad and his brothers had to lay on the floor as the bullets came flying through the windows. My grandma and my dad’s two sisters went down the hill and hid because they were afraid of the bandits.”
Nearly a century later, many think Flores has been robbed of his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Flores, known as “The Iceman” as a player for his cool demeanor, was the first Latino quarterback in pro football history, the first QB in Raiders franchise history when the AFL began in 1960.
And until 2007, when Tom Brady tied him, Flores held the record for most touchdown passes in consecutive games with 11 in 1963 (Ben Roethlisberger passed them with 12 TDs in 2014).
“I wasn’t a great quarterback, but I was one of the better ones,” said Flores, the fifth-leading passer in AFL history with 11,959 yards, despite missing all of the 1962 season with tuberculosis. “I was one of the few to play all 10 years in the AFL.”
Traded to the Buffalo Bills with Art Powell in 1967 for Daryle Lamonica and Glenn Bass, Flores ended up with the Kansas City Chiefs as Len Dawson’s backup for the Super Bowl IV champs in 1969. That’s when Flores won his first Super Bowl ring.
But Flores truly made his bones as a coach. He was the Raiders’ receivers coach in the press box when he noticed the Baltimore Colts showing a certain defensive tendency in a 1977 playoff game and called down to John Madden what would become the “Ghost to the Post” play. Flores added a second ring on Madden’s Super Bowl XI-winning staff.
Promoted by Al Davis to replace Madden in 1979, Flores coached the Raiders to Super Bowl victories after the 1980 and 1983 seasons, the former making him the first minority coach to win a title — 26 years before Tony Dungy, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. Rings Nos. 3 and 4 made Flores the first person in NFL history to win Super Bowl championships as a player, an assistant and head coach (Mike Ditka would join him later).
“People are always giving guys credit for their X’s and O’s,” Marcus Allen told NFL Network in 2006. “But being a head coach is just much more than that; it’s managing people. The thing that really created closeness was that he trusted us — ‘I taught you all you need to know, now go out there and play.’ ”
“How could that not endear you to a head coach?” the late Todd Christensen added in the same show. “As opposed to the usual, ‘Get out of here, I’m in charge.’ It was never anything like that. I can’t emphasize this enough — I think that what he contributed as a head coach is understated.”
And this from Howie Long: “Tom was the perfect fit.”
Flores was a combined 69-31 (.690) from 1980 to 1985, including the postseason, and was the 1982 NFL Coach of the Year.
“Tom Flores isn’t just a great coach in our league,” Davis said after the Raiders thumped defending champion Washington 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII, “he’s one of the great coaches of all time.”
Flores’ record against Don Coryell, the architect of the “Air Coryell” passing game, was 11-5. With the Raiders, Flores went 6-0 against Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history.
Perhaps the way Flores’ coaching career ended, rather than the pioneering manner in which he broke so many barriers, is what has kept him from sporting a gold jacket.
The Raiders went a combined 13-18 in 1986 and strike-shortened 1987 and, fearing burnout, Flores resigned. He did resurface as the first Latino president and general manager in league history with the Seahawks in 1989 and returned to the sidelines in Seattle three years later. After going 14-34 in three seasons, he was fired.
Or maybe the domineering personality of Davis turns off voters who believe the former iconoclast owner was the Raiders’ true coach, even if Madden dealt with the same perception, and was inducted in 2006.
Flores spoke of his relationship with Davis and the game plan with Sports Illustrated in 1984.
“Sometimes he doesn’t even want to see it,” Flores said. “He says, ‘I want to be surprised.’ But we do discuss general concepts — this tackle doesn’t match up well, we can work on this cornerback. And the overall Raiders’ concept is his. He just wants me to coach the hell out of it. I always have the last word on game-to-game strategy. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to be a household name, like Al is. But I figure if I keep winning, sooner or later someone’s gonna say, ‘Hey, Flores must be doing a hell of a job.’ ”
That Flores is, for the ninth time, among the now-102 Modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019 is commendable, though he has yet to make it to the semifinal list, which is 25 deep. A momentum seems to be growing; the Raiders honored the 81-year-old Flores with a Hispanic Heritage Game halftime ceremony that included an artist painting a portrait and video tribute on Sept. 30. He, Jimmy Johnson and George Seifert are the only eligible coaches with two Super Bowl titles not in the HOF.
“I’m trying to keep my emotions low-key because that’s the kind of person I am,” Flores said. “But down deep inside, it grinds on me because I haven’t even made the first cut yet in all the nine times. I see some of the people that have and gone further and, you know, I’m envious of them. I don’t degrade their situation; I’m just envious that they’ve gone that far. And I think I’ve done as much, if not more, than some of them, but I’m looking at it through my eyes.”
Indeed, can you write the definitive book on the NFL without mentioning Flores?
Dick Enberg waxed poetic as the cameras zoomed in on Flores in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XV on Jan. 25, 1981.
“You have to be happy for that man,” Enberg said on the NBC broadcast. “Talk about Cinderella stories — Chicano, worked at 6, 7 years old in the fields, became a fine athlete, on to Pacific, had a fine pro career and now, maybe the most important moment in his life.”
Flores’ father came to central California to work in the fields and met Nellie Padilla, who was born near Fresno, though her family was from Jalisco, Mexico. They would marry and have two boys. Tom Jr. was the baby, born on March 21, 1937, as the family lived on the “Courtney” family ranch for which they worked in the Fresno county town of Del Rey.
“The house was almost a shack, which wasn’t much housing, but still it was a place to sleep and live and work,” Flores said. “My dad followed the crops when the season was over there.”
But when World War II began, the Flores family moved into a “real” house outside of Sanger, “with real floors, indoor plumbing, mainly because [my father] and my grandfather sharecropped the farm.
“The people that lived there before were Japanese and they were put in internment camps. So [we] were able to take over and live there throughout the war and did well farming. Everything was cash in those days. And then when the war was over, they had to move out because the owner had promised the Japanese, ‘When this is over, you can come back.’
“And he honored his commitment. What an honorable thing.”
Flores, who was 4 years old when his family moved into the “real house,” was in the fourth grade when they moved to Sanger and he was already, as Enberg noted, doing his part.
“I remember growing up working, playing and sleeping in the fields,” Flores said. “Because that’s what you did when you’re 1, and 2 and 3 years old — you go with your parents while they work, and you pretend to work, and then you eat and you run around the fields and then you take a nap under the vines and then you get up and you pretend to work again and you pick maybe a half a tray of grapes and then you go home at night and do it all again the next day.”
When he was older, though, it was all work and some play. The work ethic he got from his parents, who also operated a tienda, a family store, seemingly all hours of the day, seven days a week, all while Tom Sr. became a U.S. citizen. The athletic skill came naturally and surprisingly. Flores and his older brother, Bob, did not discover football until junior high school — the family knew next to nothing of the game, as they did not have a television — and then starred at Sanger High (the football stadium there is named after him) before playing his college ball at Pacific.
Both Tom Sr. and Nellie lived into the 21st century, “So they were able to go on this journey with me,” Flores said. “They were fans, but they were quiet fans.”
In 2017, the League of United Latin American Citizens honored Flores with the National Trailblazer Award for his “advocacy for Latino representation” in the NFL and a Lifetime Service Award for his “support for comprehensive immigration reform and work for inclusion and diversity in government,” while Flores, along with Plunkett, is seen as having made the Raiders popular in Mexico.. There, they’re known as Los Malosos , the Bad Boys.
“Anytime a Hispanic is doing well, I feel like we always pull for each other,” said Eddy Piñeiro, the Raiders’ Nicaraguan/Cuban kicker, who is on injured reserve. “I always pull for any Latino — Mexican, Nicaragüense, Cuban, Puerto Rican — I always pull for anybody. It’s hard. It’s hard to make it when you’re Hispanic.”
It was at the LULAC awards where Flores told the story of Pancho Villa’s raiders having a lasting effect on an Oakland Raiders icon, and the sense of orgullo, pride or self-worth, that enveloped him from generations ago.
“It gives me a feeling of pride, in a way, because they survived,” said Flores, whose family story has been passed down from him and his wife of 57 years, Barbara, to their children, Mark, Scott and Kim, all of whom are in their 50s. Five grandchildren can also expect to hear the tales of the Flores familia surviving Pancho Villa’s bandits. “Gives me a feeling of gratitude because they came to California.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Much was expected out of cornerback Gareon Conley by Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders this season, a year after a shin injury limited the 2017 first-round draft pick from Ohio State to two games.
And while Conley has been relatively healthy — he came back earlier than expected from a strained hip suffered in the first practice of training camp — and has been a mainstay on defense this season, his snap total dropped off dramatically last weekend. And with Daryl Worley returning from an NFL-mandated four-game suspension last week, Conley is in jeopardy of losing his starting gig at right cornerback.
Besides, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Tuesday that Conley is “basically a rookie player” and a “work in progress” for a defense still trying to find its identity heading into this weekend’s game in London against the Seattle Seahawks.
“He is learning a lot of things,” Guenther said of Conley. “Unfortunately, he gives up the one play off the goal line and we are in a pretty good call to stop it.”
Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s 26-10 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, one snap after Derek Carr‘s end zone interception, the Raiders had the hosts on their own 4-yard line. But Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams blew by Conley down the left sideline and Philip Rivers hit him in stride for a 48-yard gain.
“I don’t want to give (Conley) too much right now,” Guenther added. “If we can give him little by little by little, just like a normal rookie player, that’s how I’m viewing Gareon. He really only played one-and-a-half games last year and he sat out pretty much through the offseason. It’s no different than a young player. He’s a work in progress.”
After playing 57 defensive snaps (90 percent) in the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams and then tying for the defensive lead with 64 snaps (97 percent) in Denver in Week 2, Conley played 31 snaps (70 percent) at Miami and 55 (68 percent) against the Browns.
“Worley played good,” Gruden said Monday, when asked if Conley’s lack of playing time was more related to his struggles or to Worley playing well.
“Worley is a good player. Gareon had a couple of struggles … (and we’re) trying to find a right mix, trying to find a right mix at a lot of positions. Daryl Worley is a good player. I think he was second on our team in tackles. He earned a right to be out there.”
Indeed, Guenther has been rotating different combos out there at corner, starting games with Melvin on the left side and Conley on the right. But against the Chargers, Oakland also paired Rodgers-Cromartie on the left with Worley on the right.
The Raiders are No. 30 in total defense, allowing 404.4 yards per game; No. 23 in pass defense, at 277.2 yards per game; and are giving up 6.8 yards per play, the second-worst such figure in the NFL.
Conley, meanwhile, has an overall grade of 58.9 from Pro Football Focus, which ranks 77th out of 116 qualifying cornerbacks; a coverage grade of 55.2, which ranks 85th of 116; and a tackling grade of 31.5, 110th of 116.
Worley allowed four catches in five targets for 17 yards while making four total stops, which constitutes a “loss” for the offense, per PFF, against the Chargers.
“Worley came in and played really good for his first game,” Guenther said. “That added an extra guy to the mix so it’s a battle at corner right now … everybody is competing for jobs and we are going to go with the hot hand.
“I want to eventually get to two starting corners and we are settled there. Obviously, Daryl came back. He was one of our best corners all offseason and he proved it again on Sunday that he is a high-level player. We will just see how it goes; really based upon what the snaps are, the situation, on how guys are playing.”
The Browns led 28-14 in the third quarter and 42-34 with just more than a minute left. It was a game the Browns felt they should have won.
“Absolutely,” Mayfield said. “When you make that many mistakes, though, it’s not gonna happen.”
Mayfield was given four turnovers in his first NFL start – two interceptions and two fumbles lost.
One interception, though, came on a bad break by receiver Antonio Callaway, the other when Mayfield flung a deep pass in the final seconds desperately trying to avoid overtime.
He fumbled once when sacked, and a second time when he and JC Tretter mixed up the snap.
Mayfield did throw touchdowns passes on perfect throws to Darren Fells for 49 yards and on a two-yard fade to Jarvis Landry. He set up another in the fourth quarter with a 59-yard strike to Antonio Callaway.
But he lamented his errors.
“I’m the quarterback of this team,” he said. “It’s on me.”
The Browns lost despite their highest scoring output since the second week of the 2007 season – a game Derek Anderson was named starter and scored 51 points.
This loss also came after it appeared the Browns had secured the win by running for a first down with 1:41 left. But officials reviewed the call and determined Carlos Hyde was short, which forced a punt that led to Carr’s game-tying drive.
“It had to be a heck of a review to turn that over on third down and short,” Mayfield said. “But any time you put it in somebody else’s hands, it’s not always gonna turn out your way.”
In his first start, Mayfield was 21-for-41 for 295 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He missed his third touchdown pass by 1 yard as Callaway was just pushed out of bounds at the end of the 59-yard play. That would have made Mayfield the first quarterback taken first overall to throw three touchdown passes in his first NFL start.
In Week 2, it was Cooper, whom Gruden said would be the “centerpiece” of Oakland’s passing offense, who lit up the Denver Broncos with 10 receptions, on 10 targets, for 116 yards. And it would have been 11 for 145 were it not for a strange double-pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter.
Sunday, in the sauna that was Miami, it was Nelson’s turn as he took advantage of the Dolphins missing safety Reshad Jones and went for 173 yards — with 151 of those in the first half — on six catches, including a 12-yard touchdown catch.
“It might be somebody else against Cleveland,” Gruden said, looking ahead to this weekend’s home game against the Browns.
Somebody different? No doubt the Raiders would prefer a different result in the final score, what with Oakland 0-3 despite the proficient passing game.
And therein lies a potential problematic side effect with a different receiver showing out every week — the other two disappear, and maybe, just maybe, that’s how and why the Raiders’ offense goes dark in the fourth quarter.
Consider: Oakland has been outscored by a combined 37-3 in the fourth quarter of games thus far, the offense petering out and then a gassed defense collapsing, as a result.
And keep in mind, Oakland entered the season with the oldest team in the league, averaging 27.4 years, per PhillyVoice.com, the oldest roster since at least 2013.
While Cook was lighting up the Rams, Cooper and Nelson combined to catch four passes for 32 yards. In Denver, Cook and Nelson had a combined six catches for 79 yards. And in Miami, Cook and Cooper combined for seven catches for 48 yards.
The addition of Martavis Bryant to the receiving corps before Week 2 has also had an effect — he has six catches for 60 yards in two games — as had the desire of Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr to get running back Jalen Richard involved in the passing game — his 15 catches are second on the team to Cook’s 18 receptions.
This small sample-size development — different pass-catchers leading the team in receiving yards on a weekly basis — is a new wrinkle for Gruden, who returned to the sideline this season after nine years in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth. ESPN Stats & Information found that Gruden has, for the most part, had one go-to receiver per season in his coaching career, and it has been rare for a second player to lead the team in receiving yards in more than four games.
With Oakland in 1998, though, Tim Brown led the Raiders seven times and James Jett was the top receiver five times. And in 2001, Jerry Rice led the Raiders eight times and Brown led them in seven games.
But in seven years with Tampa Bay, the second-leading pass-catcher never led the team in receiving more than four times, with Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Clayton, Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant leading the Buccaneers 10, 10, 13 and 10 games each in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008, respectively.
“Ball distribution is not going to be one that I think people are going to predict,” Gruden said of these Raiders. “We’re just not playing that kind of football.”
Besides, as Cooper said, the Raiders have so many weapons on offense, it’s natural for someone to have a big game and the others are not jealous.
“He went out there and he was Jordy Nelson,” Cooper said after the Miami loss. “We have the ability to go out there any given day and any guy on offense can make a huge impact.”
Said Carr, who is completing 76.6 percent of his passes with two TDs but has been picked off five times: “[Jordy is] a big-play guy. All his time in Green Bay. We got him on some good looks. We got the first one they brought inside pressure and — or outside pressure — and we were able to hit him in the middle, right? And he split them and almost scored. Then, obviously, the touchdown, he ran a perfect route. Again, the big play, I think it was the next drive or a couple drives later on the seam route. He set the stem right. He’s a friendly guy to throw to, I’ll just say that.
“Obviously, he’s very talented. I love Jordy. I love throwing to him. He had a big game. I wish we could have won so he could have felt better.”
If the Raiders had a killer instinct late this would be a different story, no?
“We played well in spurts,” said Nelson, who reached a max speed of 21.05 mph on his 61-yard catch and run in the first quarter, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
“We need to finish drives on offense and get touchdowns and finish games, obviously. That’s what it comes down to and we’re extremely close, but it makes a huge difference in this league. We’ve got to continue to grind and just continue to improve and you need to break through that barrier and then [wins] can start coming.”
Gruden said the Raiders may get “a little more creative” in how they close out practices this week, to replicate and help with how they close out games.
“We’ve got to play better at closing time,” he said.
Maybe getting multiple pass-catchers involved late will be part of that plan.
“You can’t press,” Gruden added. “To create an analogy, I’ve caddied for John Daly and I’ve caddied for some of the best. Some of these guys get on the 15th or 16th hole and they’re in great shape, but the fairways get tighter. You swing a little faster. You try a little harder. It doesn’t work out.
“We’ve got to take a deep breath and look forward to the moment. We have to apply pressure; not to say we feel pressure. We’ve got to continue to remain confident and poised and do our jobs individually, so we can do our job collectively. I think, at times, we have some guys trying to do too much. That’s something we really have to solve quickly. We do have good enough players to finish.”