After the Raiders were thrashed by Kansas City on Sunday, coach Hue Jackson started his postgame media session, as he always has after a loss, by saying, "This one is on me. The players didn’t lose this game. Coach Jackson did."
This time, he was exactly right. He lost it during the week, by trying to be cute about whether Kyle Boller or Carson Palmer would start at quarterback. Apparently, he was trying to confuse Kansas City coach Todd Haley, but knowing which quarterback was starting wouldn’t have changed Haley’s approach because Boller and Palmer are similar quarterbacks.
But the constant questioning and discussion about the starter was an obvious distraction for the Oakland players. The six interceptions by Boller and Palmer got everybody’s attention, but the truth is, the Raiders played poorly in virtually every aspect of the game. Shane Lechler had his usual outstanding game punting. Otherwise, forget it.
To put this loss into perspective, the Chiefs came into the game with a 2-3 record and had been outscored 150-77. Yet, they won 28-0. The closest the Raiders came to scoring was a second-quarter drive that gave them a first down on the Kansas City five. Four Michael Bush runs later, they were stopped at the one.
To put this loss into further perspective, the Chiefs have been the traditional divisional rivals for the Raiders since the ’60s. If there’s one team in the league the Raiders are always up for, it’s the Chiefs. But not on Sunday. Yes, Hue, this one really is on you.
In fact, Jackson had never planned to start Palmer, who didn’t even think he’d get into the game. Palmer hadn’t played in a year and a half, sitting out in Cincinnati because he said he’d retire rather than play again for the Bengals, so he wasn’t in football shape. There’s always the danger in that situation that throwing him into the game immediately would get him seriously injured.
Jackson’s original plan was to use Palmer for just a few minutes at the end of the game, but he changed his mind and used him for the entire second half. It did no good because Palmer had a very limited number of plays and didn’t know his receivers.
The bye week comes at a perfect time for the Raiders. Palmer will have time to work with his receivers and learn a much more substantial part of the playbook. A better prepared Palmer is a step up, not just from Boller but from the injured Jason Campbell.
The season is by no means lost for the Raiders, who are just half a game behind the division-leading Chargers. They have a group of fast, young receivers and an outstanding running back in Darren McFadden, who suffered a foot injury early in Sunday’s game and did not return. The Raiders did not specify what the injury was, but McFadden was standing on the sidelines, so it does not appear to be something that will keep him out of future games.
But Hue Jackson has to quit playing games and concentrate on solid coaching. Then, he won’t have to take the blame for losses.