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The Oakland Raiders are all in on tanking.
Jon Gruden has dismantled the team and thrown the franchise into turmoil in the name of rebuilding it in his outdated image, shirking veterans like Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Amari Cooper for cap space and draft picks.
The results have been spectacular, as the Raiders stumbled out of the gates to a 1-8 start with their eyes firmly set on the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
Raiders blow inside track to No. 1 pick
Oakland had a golden opportunity on Sunday to put some distance between themselves and the 2-7 Arizona Cardinals in the race to the bottom and looked well on their way to a loss when Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr were seen bickering on the sideline.
Trailing 21-20 in the fourth quarter, defeat looked firmly in hand when Cardinals running back David Johnson broke through the Oakland secondary for a 57-yard touchdown with less than three minutes remaining.
Alas, the score was nullified thanks to a Ricky Seals-Jones holding penalty that put Arizona at third-and-26. They did not convert and ended up punting 46 seconds into a clock-killing situation that gave Oakland the ball back with 1:53 remaining.
Raiders still had a shot to lose after Cardinals punt
Control was still in the Raiders’ hands, though. All they had to do to lose was make some half-hearted attempts to move the ball through the air that would pass as genuine efforts to win the game.
But they made some critical errors down the stretch. Carr hit a couple of short passes on the drive that started from their own 20 that did little to move the ball toward field goal range. So far, so good.
But when he dropped back and threw a deep pass to Marcell Ateman, the Raiders moved the ball to the Arizona 37 and were threatening to rip victory from the jaws of defeat.
That’s exactly what they did. Two plays and 20 yards later, and Oakland had the ball in range for a chip-shot field goal with 2 seconds remaining.
When Daniel Carlson put the ball through the uprights on a 35-yard attempt, the Raiders had taken a 23-21 lead and the clock read zero.
Part of Gruden’s plan?
The win put the Raiders in a last-place tie in the NFL with the Cardinals and 49ers with the 3-7 Buffalo Bills and New York Jets nipping at their heels.
What was a chance for the Raiders to take firm control of the path to top draft pick has now turned into a dog fight.
But with No. 1 draft picks demanding a lot of money and cap space, maybe it’s al part of Gruden’s master plan.
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