The Oakland Raiders have much bigger problems than President Donald J. Trump criticizing their anthem-kneeling running back Marshawn Lynch.
As a football team, they’re a mess right now.
Their defense is struggling so much they fired their defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on Tuesday, replacing him with John Pagano.
“After careful thought, I have made a difficult decision to part ways with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator,” coach Jack Del Rio said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience. I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”
Del Rio, a former defensive coordinator, is considered a top defensive mind, so it’s a little surprising he hasn’t been able to field better defensive units in Oakland, since becoming head coach in 2015.
“The defense has never been right under Jack Del Rio,” said former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon on CBS Sports Network.
In a loss to New England on Sunday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady toyed with the Raiders’ defense, going 30-37 for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Brady competed 81 percent of his passes and had a 131.9 QB rating. Brady against the Raiders’ defense was like the Harlem Globetrotters facing the Washington Generals.
And their offense might be an even bigger disappointment.
On June 22, the Raiders gave QB Derek Carr a five-year deal for $125 million with $70 million guaranteed, making him the NFL’s highest paid quarterback at the time (since surpassed by Detroit’s Matthew Stafford).
But Carr hasn’t played like a $25 million-a-year quarterback this year, making some wonder if the Raiders overpaid their fourth-year signal-caller, whose been pedestrian this year, despite having a coterie of weapons, including star receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
“Is Derek Carr that guy?” asked former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis on Showtime. “If you put Aaron Rodgers in that same position, that offense still moves. And now you’re looking at Derek Carr saying, ‘We pay him all this money. Is this guy that guy?’ I don’t know if he’s that guy for the Oakland Raiders.”
As for their running game you have to wonder if signing Lynch, and letting the productive, classy Latavius Murray leave for Minnesota in free agency, was a good idea.
Lynch was suspended one game for bumping an official, and has kneeled for the national anthem all season for some unknown reason. Lynch, who doesn’t like to talk to the media, never really explained his rationale.
And Sunday, before the Raiders-Patriots game in Mexico City, he knelt for the U.S. anthem, but stood during the Mexican anthem, drawing the wrath of Trump on twitter.
“Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our National Anthem,” tweeted Trump. “Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.”
For some reason, this tweet about Lynch disrespecting the United States on foreign soil upset Del Rio’s wife, Linda.
“Take more time being president of the United States and less time trying to shame.” Linda Del Rio’s tweeted.
Linda Del Rio also tweeted, “President Trump I voted for you, which I now regret. Football is a powerful platform — here’s the charitable work we did in Mexico City #NFLproud.”
She posted pictures with her tweet of work the Jack Del Rio Foundation did in Mexico.
Linda Del Rio’s narrative here is a little confusing. While the charitable work of the foundation in Mexico should be applauded, what does that have to do with Lynch disrespecting the United States on foreign soil? Seems like apples and oranges.
Lynch’s mother also attacked Trump on twitter.
“What NFL team do Trump own?” tweeted Delisa Lynch. “Oh yeah they wouldn’t let him have one!”
Trump expressed interest in buying the Buffalo Bills in 2014, but the team went to oil magnate Terry Pegula. But once again, what does that have to do with Marshawn Lynch disrespecting his own country in Mexico City?
Maybe this is part of the Raiders’ problem, they are distracted. Lynch, and others around the team, are focused on things that have nothing to do with winning football games.
Instead of making Trump a boogeyman for trying to defend the honor of his country, perhaps the Raiders family needs to focus on the team playing better football.