Two years ago at this time, the Raiders were 6-2, on their way to 12-4, and Derek Carr was a legit MVP candidate. But they slipped to 6-10 last season, coach Jack Del Rio was fired and owner Mark Davis replaced him with his white whale, Jon Gruden, who would return to the sidelines for the first time since the 2008 season.
Turns out, a lot has changed in the NFL over the last decade and Gruden, at least through six games, appears ill-equipped to handle it. He spent the first few weeks of the season lamenting the lack of a pass rush -- even though, you know, he traded Khalil Mack to the Bears. But after scoring 45 points against the Browns in the Raiders' only win of the season in Week 4, the offense has managed just 13 points in the last eight quarters. The low point came Sunday in London, where Seattle led 27-0 before Oakland managed a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Not helping: Gruden, inexplicably, decided to fly from Oakland to London, arriving early Friday, some 48 hours before kickoff. That's an eight-hour time difference, which makes it almost impossible for the players to adjust their body clocks in time for the game.
"Did a lot of research on it, obviously -- people that have done it, people that have made that cross-country trip from California," Gruden said last Monday, explaining his thinking. "I don't know much about it. We're just doing the best thing we think for our players. Get the proper preparation here. Then go to London, get them the proper rest, time acclimation. Then get ready to play on Sunday."
"I hope I can make it, honestly. I'm not great (traveling)," Gruden continued. "I get claustrophobic. My son was a weightlifter and he won a powerlifting competition in Belarus. I had to fly 14 hours. I had to fly home 14 hours. I had vertigo for a month. I couldn't even lay down, the house was spinning. I am hoping I don't get vertigo. I'm not a great traveler. I'll be honest with you, I hate it. I'm not good. I'm concerned. I'm more worried about that than our goal-line offense right now."
Imagine Bill Belichick saying something like this. You can't, right?
Mercifully, the Raiders are on their bye. And perhaps their best chances to string together some wins will come over the next month when they host Indianapolis in Week 8, travel to San Francisco in Week 9 and travel to Arizona in Week 11. Any Given Sunday and all that, but from the perspective of mid-October, the other seven games all look like losses. Put another way: 4-12 would be Oakland's worst record since 2014, which was also Carr's rookie season. Not exactly the return on investment Davis was expecting after giving Gruden $100 million.
While Gruden probably wouldn't say it publicly, are the Raiders already in rebuild mode? Reading between the lines, it sure sounds like it.
"We're going to continue to build the team," Gruden said after the game. "I've only been here for six or seven months. We got some players hurt."
Carr, meanwhile, sounded a different tone.
"I hope not, you know what I mean?" he said Sunday.
"This is my fifth year. I don't, we don't like [talk of a rebuild], you know? I feel like we've done that a little bit, right? Nobody likes to do that ... this being my fifth year, you want [success] now," he continued. "You want everything now. I know our fans want it now, and trust me, we're trying to do it now. But we've got to take this bye week, look at what we can do to play better right off this bye week, what we can do to win that game. That's where our mindset has to be."
The reality is that the Raiders are a terrible football team right now and it's not unreasonable to think that Gruden will continue overhauling the team into his likeness, and that could even include moving on from Carr.