Downing in, Musgrave out as coordinator
Oakland and Michael Crabtree, right, are looking forward to an even better season in 2017. Some observers are even predicting a Super Bowl appearance.
The Raiders are not renewing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s contract and will promote quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to fill that job, sources said Tuesday.
Oakland finished sixth in the NFL in total yards and seventh in points scored, but lost quarterback Derek Carr to a broken fibula Dec. 24 and then lost its AFC wild-card playoff game in
broke his leg and coaches essentially threw rookie Connor Cook to the wolves, hoping the Raiders’ defense could force three or more turnovers. There was no upset in Houston on Saturday, and Del Rio tipped his cap to his players before getting on to the business of next season — like changing offensive coordinators.
“Each year, the turnover throughout the league is close to 25 percent or so,” Del Rio said. “It’s never going to be the same group of men. We had a good group. We had a good year. We went from seven wins to 12 wins. Had a lot of great moments throughout the year, a lot to be proud of.” Proud, yes. Happy? No. “We should expect more, and I’m going to demand more,” Del Rio said.
The Raiders did expect more after their season-opening win in New Orleans. It set the stage for everything when Del Rio went for a two-point conversion and the win with 47 seconds left. Carr changed the call at the line of scrimmage — which he would do again and again as the year progressed — and threw a high arcing pass to the corner of the end zone for Crabtree.
He grabbed it, the Raiders won and Del Rio was lauded for his guts by the national media. The players’ confidence started to match their coach’s, and Oakland would win its first five road games.
“Guys always think they believe, but it takes something like that for things to really click,” Crabtree said. “And you feel like you’re going to win, even if you’re down in the fourth quarter. You trust in your coaches and teammates to do what it takes to get the W.”
The victory in New Orleans was the first of seven fourthquarter comeback wins for the Raiders.
“Jack was like, ‘Hey, it’s about the process. Don’t forget how you won in Week 1,’ ” long snapper Jon Condo said. “We wouldn’t look ahead at the games three or four weeks away. It was a great season. It was fun.”
Though Del Rio was praised for his courage and faith in his offense to make the play, the decision showed what little faith he had in his defense. And though the defense got better after allowing a combined 69 points in the first two games to the Saints and Falcons, it didn’t really turn the corner.
Teams with Mack, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, should not finish last in the league in sacks, but Oakland did with 25.
The Raiders gave up 375 yards per game (26th in the league) and 24.1 points (20th), and things could have been a lot worse if they didn’t lead the league with a plus-16 turnover margin. Though effort is no doubt a part of the latter stat — and the Raiders played hard for Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton. Jr — there is also some luck involved there.
The Raider must address their defensive line. Especially the big guys in the middle, whom linebacker Bruce Irvin called out on more than one occasion for not getting enough push and pressure. Del Rio called the interior pass rush a “critical” need Monday, and went through four of the linemen. He didn’t mention starter Dan Williams or former starter Justin Ellis, and for good reason: That’s a combined 700 pounds of invisible right there.
“That’s going to be an area for sure that we’re going to have to be better and do better,” Del Rio said.
The Raiders also need help at linebacker and defensive back, and hope that the members of the 2016 draft class — safety Karl Joseph, defensive lineman Jihad Ward, and linebackers Shilique Calhoun and Cory James — are reliable contributors next season. Because they weren’t this season.
The offense was reliable until Carr went down. He and the receivers developed a special rapport and sense of where and when they wanted the football delivered. The Raiders were good enough to overcome a lot of drops when Carr was in there, but not when backups Matt McGloin and Cook took their turns the last two games.
The Raiders led the NFL with 46 dropped passes, per Sports-Radar-US. No. 3 receiver Seth Roberts led the league with 13, Crabtree had 12 and Cooper and tight end Clive Walford had six each.
“More than I’m comfortable with, more than we should have,” Del Rio said of the dropped passes. “You can add that to the list of things we’re talking about here, areas that are obvious areas that must improve.”
The Raiders are young, though, and should improve. They have a franchise quarterback and a franchise defensive player, and those aren’t easy to get, not to mention a highpriced offensive line that dominated before wearing down the last month. This offseason will be about adding to that nucleus.
“I’m super excited,” Carr said. “We should have a good majority of our guys back. I’m going to work my tail off to be better next year. That’s the mind-set our whole team has.
“When you’ve got a group of guys that have won 12 games and don’t care about that, they just want to be better, then we’re going to be all right.”
Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is part of the returning offensive nucleus led by quarterback Derek Carr.