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Graney: Is Josh McDaniels still calling plays for Raiders?

Updated November 26, 2023 - 8:17 pm

Are we sure Josh McDaniels isn’t still coaching the Raiders?

Or at least the offense?

The Raiders played another game Sunday in which they failed to score 20 points — they’ve done so just twice this season — and walked out of Allegiant Stadium losers to the Chiefs.

The final was 31-17, and what that doesn’t tell you is how well things began for the home team. As in a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. As in a nice mix of run and pass that had rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell appearing in complete control.

But just as they did last week when starting fast against the Dolphins — the Raiders had leads of 3-0 and 10-7 in Miami — things got way too conservative thereafter.

The Raiders go off script and things go all south.

Be more aggressive

“Opportunities were there,” interim coach Antonio Pierce said. “Plays were there. We had a hard time rebounding from (stalled drives). We like the concepts. We’re just not hitting on them.”

Maybe because they grab an advantage and then back off.

Think about it: In the first 30 minutes, the Raiders ran 31 plays for 245 yards and were 4-for-6 on third down. O’Connell was 13 of 16 for 138 yards.

But then they became all too predictable after intermission, eventuality trying to chase a score far too much by not being aggressive enough.

Consider: Kansas City had just rallied from 14 down to take 21-14 lead with 9:15 remaining in the third quarter.

How did the Raiders answer? Two run plays for Josh Jacobs that totaled 6 yards, followed by an incompletion.

They had second-and-6 from the Kansas City 16 trailing by seven late in the third and ran Jacobs for no gain.

It wasn’t just that. Pierce’s team led 7-0 in the first quarter when it faced fourth-and-1 from the Kansas City 12. His offensive line had controlled things to that point. But instead of going for it, Pierce chose to have the usually reliable Daniel Carlson attempt a 30-yard field goal. It missed.

“We definitely didn’t play well enough,” O’Connell said. “We needed to put drives together and keep our defense off the field. We have to do a better job of sustaining and executing, especially against a really good team like that. Lock in every drive and do your job.”

Davante Adams had five catches for the Raiders in the first half. None thereafter. Zero. Which is inexcusable. He was targeted twice in those final 30 minutes.

Key stat: The Raiders have scored 22 points in the third quarter this season.

What in the world are they discussing at halftime?

Complete trust

In assuming control of the team after McDaniels’ firing, Pierce smartly went with and has stuck with O’Connell as his quarterback through four games over veteran Jimmy Garoppolo. Each snap allows the Raiders to evaluate O’Connell as a possible leader of the future.

But they need be the same team in the third and fourth quarters that went 75 yards in nine plays (five runs, four passes) to begin Sunday’s game.

They’re 5-7 now. Little to lose. Go for everything.

“We let some plays get away from us offensively,” Pierce said. “It comes down to execution, and we’re going to have to work on that. Our plan from the beginning was to be aggressive, but it’s difficult when you miss opportunities … Obviously, we all need to be better.”

They need to have complete trust, no matter the time of game, no matter the down and distance, no matter the score.

Josh McDaniels might not be the coach anymore, but what we’re seeing is much of the same.

Which is an offense that can’t for the life of itself generate any level of consistency.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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