The Oakland Raiders fell to the Tennessee Titans, extending their streak of blowout losses to three. Derek Carr responded to hometown boos after the game by acknowledging Oakland’s frustrations.
It’s like watching the same movie again and again.
No matter how many times you watch it, the Titanic always sinks. Darth Vader always tells Luke that he’s his father. John Coffey always gets zapped in the electric chair. That one kid from the M. Night Shyamalan movie always sees dead people.
In the world of the National Football League — especially in the last three weeks — the Oakland Raiders offense disappoints.
In this version of the same old story, the Raiders are playing in front of their hometown fans — the ones that they’ll be deserting for Las Vegas in a year. They sit at .500 and must win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
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In the first act, the Raiders look solid.
They give their audience hope on both sides of the ball, quickly matching the energy of their opponent. They put together three touchdowns. They give the crowd hope that more is to come.
But it doesn’t. There’s a slow descent into oblivion that crushes all hope for the game, for the season, for things to be different.
The movie ends the way it did last week and the week before. The Raiders are embarrassed.
Raiders fans, understandably, have seen enough of this story. As the descent began to decrescendo, the boo birds came out and made their presence known.
It wasn’t pretty.
The frustration reached its breaking point for Raider Nation. It didn’t matter that star running back Josh Jacobs was out with a shoulder injury; this was supposed to be a winnable game.
And it was supposed to be propped up by the desire of keeping the season alive despite the recent skid.
But the offense went silent in the second half. The Oakland Raiders fell 42-21 to the Tennessee Titans. A Kansas City Chiefs victory over the New England Patriots clinched the AFC West Divisional crown.
Always the poignant speaker, Derek Carr repackaged his same “it starts with me” post-game speech with a new twist. He put things into perspective — the booing, the injuries, the shortcomings, all of it:
“The game is next man up. Nobody cares about our situation. Nobody cares who is playing. Nobody cares who has been here, who has not been here. The people who have played this position, played that. I have learned that in my six year. Nobody cares. We didn’t win the football game, and it is what it is.”
Inadvertently, Carr unveiled a theme for this week’s Oakland Raiders game — and, simultaneously — for the larger issue of the season.
Carr was incorrect about his emphasis on the results. Winning is all that matters at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the officiating is, what the weather was like, how close something came to becoming reality.
A win is a win. A loss is a loss. The Raiders have been losing.
On one hand, someone could look at this 42-21 loss the same way they’d look at the 27-24 loss to the Houston Texans a couple of weeks back.
But when everything is falling apart, the only thing that a team has left to fight for is caring. The Raiders — and Derek Carr specifically — did not care enough at the end of the game.
That might sound harsh — because it is. But a single play at the end of the game directly addresses this point.
The score is 42-21. There’s just under four minutes left in regulation, and your Oakland Raiders are going for it on 4th-and-goal from about the 2-yard line.
The game, of course, is out of reach. Even a score here would need to be paired with two successful onside kicks in three minutes to tie the game. Nobody is expecting a miraculous comeback.
Your franchise quarterback and leader drops back to survey the endzone. He doesn’t look to his left to see the clear running lane that could take him into the endzone with some potential contact. He looks right.
He flinches to his right, drops further back to about the 10, then further back and rolls toward the sideline as he tries to motion for his receiver to mirror him.
He sees the defense coming. And, without any further hesitation, he throws it away — into the safety of the sideline and out of reach of any player on the field.
Three and outs can be frustrating. Being shutout for any long period of time can be frustrating.
This was the epitome of frustrating.
Perhaps, “nobody” would have cared about a garbage-time touchdown effort by Derek Carr. The outcome of the game wasn’t going to be changed by any spectacular effort in that moment.
But given what the moment represented — the final chance for the Raiders to fight for their AFC West hopes, the final chance for the offense to fight off being shut out, one of the final chances for the team’s leader to show fight for the sake of proving grit — the team failed.
In a moment that mattered to Oakland, Derek Carr didn’t care.
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It’s the problem that has held Carr back as a leader all season long, even going into previous seasons. Derek Carr is an average quarterback. But when it comes to being a leader by example, Derek Carr has failed.
They call for it because either of those guys — any quarterback knowing they have something to prove — would have run to their left and risked barreling into the endzone even if the score didn’t matter.
That’s the difference.
Carr’s stance that “nobody cares” can only be taken so far. It can be applied to the macrocosm of the season, assessed by overall record, by who makes it into and succeeds in the playoffs.
But people care in moments like those, when people have to prove they still have fight.
Oakland cares — it’s why they were booing their own team.
And Derek Carr should too. His job is at stake, after all.