Josh McDaniels - Loser
As we mentioned in the opening slide, much of the blame for this loss can be placed primarily on head coach Josh McDaniels. This was a coach who was supposed to revolutionize the Raiders' offense, but they have yet to score 20 points in a game this season and are the only team in the NFL to not do so through three weeks. Obviously, Jimmy Garoppolo takes some blame for the team's struggles, but for a man touted as an offensive genius, we have yet to see that come to fruition.
On Sunday night, there were two decisions that stood out above the rest as complete head-scratchers for McDaniels. One thing we noted last year was that McDaniels does not know what type of coach he wants to be. There were some games and decisions where he was too conservative, and others where he was unnecessarily aggressive. He does not seem to know if he wants to be the conservative coach who relies on taking the points when given to them and leans on his defense, or if he is going to be a hyper-aggressive coach who relies solely on his supposedly genius offense.
This confusion was apparent in two scenarios on Sunday night. The first came with the Raiders down by 16 and facing a fourth and five inside the red zone. Rather than taking the chip-shot field goal to make it a 13-point game, McDaniels opted to go for it on fourth down. The aggressive decision made sense, but we also could see the logic in taking the points and closing the gap with a struggling Steelers offense.
The second situation was by far the more egregious of the two and had Raiders fans scratching their heads. With around 2.5 minutes to go in the game and the Raiders down by eight, the offense faced a fourth and short inside the red zone. Rather than going for it, McDaniels opted to kick the field goal to reduce the deficit by three. His reasoning for the decision was that the Raiders needed two possessions to win the game and taking the points would have allowed them to gain that extra possession if they had stopped the Steelers on their ensuing drive.
The reasoning didn't make sense because the Raiders could have scored and tied the game, or at the least, been down by 2 if they failed on the 2-point conversion. It would have put the Steelers in the same position where they needed to get a first down to end the game, and the Raiders would have needed just a field goal to win the game.
Instead, the Steelers got the first down and effectively ended the game as the Raiders got the ball back with close to no time remaining. According to Opta Stats, it was the first time in NFL history that a coach had made that decision in that exact situation, and the collective head-scratching around the league explained why it was so bizarre.
For someone who came up under Bill Belichick, it's astounding how bad Josh McDaniels is at game management, and he seems overwhelmed by the choices he has to make. At least if he was consistently aggressive or conservative, we could understand the reasoning behind his decisions, but he seems to be making random choices and hoping for the best.
There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Josh McDaniels after his disastrous tenure with the Denver Broncos, and many of the same concerns we had coming in are still issues today. He has not improved as a man manager, and the genius he is supposedly known for has not been present in Las Vegas. Calls for his job are getting louder, and if the Raiders continue to struggle, we may not see him finish out the season as the head coach.