After losing a shot at the AFC West title via a 38-26 loss to the San Diego Chargers to end their season, the Oakland Raiders prepared to go into their ninth straight early offseason — that it, a regular season without a playoff punctuation — and the first without Al Davis on this earth. The postseason droughts may be par for the course with some in the organization, but for first-year head coach Hue Jackson, there was nothing good about a loss that prevented the Raiders from the AFC West title. After the Denver Broncos lost their third straight game to close their season out, the Raiders had the inroads, but couldn't close the deal.
This led to a scathing, profane post-game press conference in which Jackson threw just about everyone under the bus -- including himself, to a certain degree.
"I'm pissed at my team," he began. "At some point in time, as a group of men … you can say whatever you want about coaches, but [players] win the game. Here's your time. Here's your time to make some plays. We didn't get them stopped, and we didn't make enough plays. So, yeah — I'm pissed at the team. Like I always tell them, I put it on me as well, but I am also pissed at my team. Because when you have those kinds of opportunities, you have to do it. And we didn't do it."
Asked what was wrong with the team, Jackson started with the general view and started to drill down. "When I say that they weren't ready, I mean as a whole … when it was all said and done, maybe they thought that team [the Chargers] was gonna lay down. I told them all week, I knew they [weren't]. I told you guys, I told the media, this is all I preached. This team in San Diego — they aren't gonna lay down and decide not to play — they're gonna play. Maybe after that first drive, we thought it was gonna be easy. This is pro football. You've gotta play every down as hard as you can to give yourselves an opportunity to win.
"It's gonna feel worse once I put on my [street] clothes. Because, obviously, we had a chance to win the [AFC] West. We had a chance to win this division. This was the game … I told them, somehow, some way, we were gonna get in. All we had to do was take care of business and win the game. This team understood that. We didn't get it done, and that's why I'm disappointed."
Was Jackson really that angry in the locker room? Did he tell his players just how "pissed off" he was? "You're doggone right that's what I told them — I'm pissed off at that football team. We're better than that. You can't fight as hard as we did in Kansas City for a chance to come home, and you come home and play like that with an opportunity to win the division? I don't have an answer for that, but it's my team, and I'll continue to fix it as I continue to move forward."
Then, Jackson got around to how things are going to get fixed. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan will certainly take a great deal of the blame, as he should. At one point in the San Diego loss, the Raiders had crept to within five points, and had the Chargers backed up at their own one-yard line. Four plays later, Philip Rivers had driven his team the entire length of the field. In losing four of their last five games, the Raiders frequently proved to be a defensive disaster, and Bresnahan's schemes were worth questioning. Man corners playing zone, linebackers looking lost in intermediate coverage, and the best pass defender (Stanford Routt) blitzing far too often … it was clear that Bresnahan was overmatched.
"Chuck knows how I feel," Jackson said. "I'm disappointed over there. I have been. It's not like we haven't had conversations. Chuck knows what I feel, and it's not good enough ... When you play defense in the NFL, man, you've got to hunt. You can't give up 28, 29 points and expect to win."
"I'm not making no more excuses for anybody. I've taken this thing on all year, and … look. We don't tackle very well in the secondary, we don't make the plays you've gotta make in the secondary to be successful, and we're not where we need to be yet. It's my job, and I'm gonna get it fixed.
"When you look at the yards they had, and the completion percentage of their quarterback, the touchdowns they had … I mean, we didn't get them stopped. I just think it's overall. When you play defense, 11 guys have to play together. I'll say one thing — this team needs an attitude adjustment. The killer instinct has got to exist here. When you don't finish games like we haven't … and this has been going on all year. There are going to be adjustments, because what we just did isn't good enough."
I'm pissed about this, and it's gonna wear on me for a while, but it's going to push me into next season, to really make everybody here understand what it takes to win consistently in this league. I'm tired of hearing, 'We don't have good enough players.' We have good enough players.
In the end, Jackson used his podium to express how things were going to change — under his hand.
"I'm going take a stronger hand in this whole team, this whole organization," he said. "There ain't no way that I'm going to feel like I feel today a year from now, I promise you that. There's no question. Defensively, offensively and special teams. I ain't feeling like this no more. This is a joke. I'm going to take a hand in everything that goes on here."
We'll see what happens. Jackson and team CEO Amy Trask have worked together since Davis passed away in October, but a new front office must now be built, and Jackson's record down the stretch won't help his case for more control. That explains his temper, but the outburst might not be enough proof that he's got things under control with every aspect of the organization.