After spending seven years in hell the Oakland Raiders entered Sunday’s contest with a chance to enter football heaven. Too bad for the Silver and Black their playoff destiny was out of their own control. Even worse is that they have themselves to blame for relinquishing that control.
This has been a year of great growth for Tom Cable and his players. A franchise that has been the laughing stock of the football world played with renewed pride and passion. Still, if anyone in the organization is looking to assign blame for coming up short in the playoff push they need look no further than the reflection in the mirror.
Somehow the Raiders continue to lead the league in penalties year after year. While some calls are questionable others are inexcusable – namely presnap penalties. Whenever there is a false start, an illegal formation or an encroachment flag thrown it is a sad reminder of how unfocused this team still is. Yesterday is a perfect example of just how costly these mistakes can be. The Indianapolis Colts didn’t play a great game by any means. But by gifting them an entire football field in penalty yards the Raiders did everything except walk the ball into the end zone for Indy.
While it is the players on the field that are responsible for these mindless mistakes it is the coaching staff that shares equal blame. Coaches cannot be held accountable for everything that occurs during a game. However, when the players are making the same mistakes time and time again it is up to the staff to ensure that these errors are fixed.
When you begin to pick apart this season you’ll see the most minor of errors contributed to the now pointless perfection in the AFC West.
Missed opportunities such as Sebastian Janikowski’s miss in Arizona. A complete lack of effort like the putrid performances in Pittsburgh and San Francisco certainly contributed to playoff absence. Even stubborn coaching decisions like the Bruce Gradkowski debacle at home to Miami is held to scrutiny.
While Cable gets a lot of credit for reestablishing the Raiders as AFC West contenders, he and his staff failed miserably to carry the same intensity to games outside of the division. Considering the Raiders drew the worst division in football and had no other wins against teams outside of the NFC Worst West says a lot.
It says this team still has a long road ahead. It screams just how difficult it is to win in the NFL. This is not the BCS where by winning your conference outright you’re gifted a date in the postseason. Taking care of business is not relegated to your rivals alone. Going forward it will be up to Cable to get maximal effort out of his team no matter who the opponent is.
Without a consistent focus you get the odd conundrum in which the Raiders find themselves. They are the best team in their own division yet are once again at home watching the playoffs pass them by.
The biggest disappointment is not that the Raiders aren’t in the playoffs but that they prevented themselves from being there. Losing is a part of the game but not giving full effort every week and losing focus during important moments is inexcusable for paid professionals. Tom Cable gets a lot of credit for raising the bar now it’s time to get his team to clear the hurdle of self-inflicted wounds.