It was an hour or so before kickoff Sunday when a familiar face to all who follow college football was seen strolling the Allegiant Stadium sidelines.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney at one point even chatted with Raiders owner Mark Davis, causing the predictable Twitter over-reaction. The Raiders will soon need a permanent head coach. Swinney certainly has the cache to be mentioned among any list of candidates.
Oh, what (fabricated) drama.
I’m just glad Swinney’s presence offered a bit of excitement.
The Raiders sure didn’t.
Chalk this one up as a severe blow to those postseason dreams, a 17-15 loss to the Washington Football Team that was as boring for three quarters as it was intriguing for a final one.
“We have to score more than 15 points,” said interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. “We have to come up with some plays, somehow. We have to make a play.”
Same old thing
We’ve seen all this before. Sometimes the Raiders are able to overcome slow starts and awful play in the red zone and win. Sometimes they can’t.
The red zone opportunities Sunday weren’t as plentiful as past games — Josh Jacobs actually scored a touchdown on one of the team’s two trips inside the 20 — but such wasn’t always the case as the Raiders crossed into Washington territory four times. Three field goals.
There was zero offensive rhythm. It’s true the visitors did a good job taking things away over the top. But when you can’t run the ball a lick — the Raiders offered 76 yards on just 16 carries — and your offensive front is again far too inconsistent, the same issues bite you in more ways than one.
More checkdowns from quarterback Derek Carr. More bizarre play calls from offensive coordinator Greg Olson on third down. More of what we have seen in losses.
I tossed a paper cup into a trash can about 10 feet away in the press box. That might have been more air yards than Carr had in the first half.
“We have to do a better job scoring touchdowns and not field goals,” said wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. “Until we get that fixed, we’re not going to win games.
“We lost the game. That’s the only thing that matters.”
It’s a brutal defeat. The Raiders fell to 6-6 and managed just one touchdown against a team coming off a short week that had to fly cross country. This, a Raiders side that hadn’t played since Thanksgiving. Unacceptable in every manner.
Back to Swinney.
Watching former players
You have to believe he watched how the Raiders’ offense unfolded throughout and — jokingly? — thought his team could have fared better. And the Tigers were hardly solid moving the ball this season.
Swinney is reportedly in town for a college Hall of Fame gala and attending the game allowed him to watch some of his former players. At last count, there might be 21 on the Raiders. Or it just seems like that.
Renfrow is one such name. He chatted with the Clemson boss — who was wearing a Raiders shirt — beforehand and prior to the third-year player catching nine balls for 102 yards.
“He’s 0-for-2 watching me (play live), so I’m going to tell him not to come back,” Renfrow joked. “He was at the Jets game a few years ago and we didn’t do very well (a 34-3 loss).”
This Sunday, Renfrow said Swinney “was all excited. He met (NASCAR Hall of Fame) Richard Petty in the parking lot and got his hat signed. It was good to see him. We’ll have some dinner tomorrow and get to visit a bit.”
Swinney (we’re pretty sure) was here for reasons other than any coaching search. But thank goodness he offered a small storyline before kickoff.
You need those when the home team decides to sleepwalk through much of the afternoon.
Bad loss. Really bad.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.