In Bill Musgrave, The Oakland Raiders Got Rid Of The Wrong Coordinator

Jun 15, 2016; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2016; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Oakland Raiders decided to let Bill Musgrave walk while opting to retain Ken Norton Jr., they kept the wrong coordinator.

On Tuesday, the Oakland Raiders made a small handful of changes to Jack Del Rio’s coaching staff — including opting not to retain the services of Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave. Quarterbacks Coach Todd Downing is expected to take his place, and Marcus Robertson was relived of his duties as Defensive Backs Coach.

There was also a certain move that wasn’t made, and that was the decision to keep Ken Norton Jr. as the defensive coordinator. By keeping Norton and letting Musgrave walk, the Raiders got it wrong. It should have been the other way around.

Downing taking over for Musgrave will be Carr’s third offensive coordinator in four seasons, heading into next year. That lack of continuity isn’t easy on a young quarterback, and even though Carr has demonstrated plenty of ability, this will be an adjustment. And while the Musgrave to Downing transition should be relatively smooth, it’s not like Downing is going to run the same exact system. Otherwise, why get rid of Musgrave if nothing is going to change?

Before we get any further, let me state for the record that I am by no means some sort of “Musgrave truther” — and in fact, it’s quite the opposite. There were few who voiced as much displeasure with the hiring of Bill Musgrave than myself. Seriously, check any of my tweets before October of 2016, which is when I started to change my tune on ol’ Bill.

As someone who grew up with a Dad who is a diehard Vikings fan and as someone who lived with one of my best friends for years who also is a diehard Vikings fan, I got to watch a lot of the Musgrave offense during his tenure there. And it was awful.

Musgrave’s 2015 season — his first with the Raiders — didn’t do much to change my opinion of him as an offensive coordinator. There were a handful of moments where I felt like he did some impressive things with the offense, but all in all, it was about what I expected.

The Raiders finished 24th in yards in 2015, they were 16th in passing, 28th in rushing and 17th in scoring. Whether it was third-down conversion percentage, red zone efficiency or any other stat, chances are Musgrave’s offense was either middle of the pack or below average.

And then 2016 happened.

2016 was far and aways Musgrave’s best ever year as a coach in the NFL. It was like after all these years, something finally clicked for him. Yes, having as much talent as he did on offense obviously helps — so for those of you who just said that in your head, thank you captain obvious. But what Musgrave was able to do with the offense — regardless of the talent on the field — deserves credit.

To borrow from JBB’s very own Ted Nguyen:

As Ted said, play design is a strength of Musgrave’s. Whether it’s creating a clever misdirect like the play above, designing route concepts for wide receivers, using zone reads or RPOs, utilizing the power run game or deploying a sixth offensive lineman, Musgrave was quite creative.

Here’s an example of a little something in the run game:

And speaking of Olawale, how about that wheel route 75-yard touchdown earlier in the season?

I could go on with dozens upon dozens of examples of creative plays that Musgrave drew up. Plenty of clips showing long touchdowns, Carr to Cooper bombs, and a whole list of other things. But the truth is, for the folks who were dead set on Musgrave being a huge problem, it won’t matter.

Just for giggles, let’s see what the numbers say:

Total passing? 13th — with three games of a broken pinky for Carr and five quarters of either Matt McGloin or Connor Cook.

Total rushing? 6th — with a lead back 75% of fans can’t stand (Latavius), a rookie fifth-round pick and a rookie undrafted free agent.

Points per game? 7th.

Giveaways? Tied for 3rd fewest.

Sacks allowed? Fewest.

Red zone TDs? 10th best.

But once again, for the folks who were dead set on Musgrave being a huge problem, this doesn’t matter. As the 6th ranked offense, there are 26 others teams that would love to have the same “problems” the Raiders offense had.

By most offensive statistics, the Raiders had a top ten offense. And they were in the top five (or higher) for much of the season, and only took a dip when Carr injured his pinky, and then with the awful McGloin game in Week 17.

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Which brings me to my next point — if you are upset with Musgrave because the offense faltered with Matt McGloin (who is awful) and with Connor Cook making his first ever NFL start on the road in the playoffs against the #1 defense in the NFL, just stop.

People will credit who they want to credit and blame who they want to blame — whatever they need to do to make an argument fit their narrative. And that’s exactly what happened with Musgrave.

Oakland’s offense was highly effective, highly efficient, and was one of the most potent in the entire league. Yet some fans would rather harp on the three and outs (that all teams have), the occasional bad calls (which all teams have), and so on.

No, Musgrave is not perfect. Far from it. His situational play-calling was shaky, he had a tendency to overthink himself and get too cute, and he loved his screen plays and fade routes a little too much — but he wasn’t nearly as predictable and vanilla as much of Raider Nation would make you believe. If he was, his offense wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it was in 2016.

While Ken Norton Jr., on the other hand, had the 26th ranked defense that had problems far beyond the secondary — such as being dead last in sacks — got to stay?

Maybe the Musgrave decision truly was mutual. Or maybe it was simply a matter of choosing a rising young star in Downing over him. But regardless of the reasoning, Musgrave didn’t get the credit that he earned, and now that he’s gone, well…he never will.

Next: Finding the Raiders a new DB Coach

Best of luck to Todd Downing moving forward. Hopefully the Raiders offense finishes #1 in every single offensive category known to man and never once gets a three and out or makes a bad play call. Otherwise watch out, I might have to write a similar article in a couple of years.