After a third fall-from-in-front loss and an 0-3 start for the 2018 season, it is convenient, almost fashionable, for the media to hint that the executive branch of the Oakland Raiders is straining at the seams due to head coach Jon Gruden's decisions off the field regarding how the team is run and by whom.
We have no inside knowledge or confirmation of such a thing, but his on-the-field decisions didn't help the team or the Gruden II era Sunday when the OakVegas Raiders turned a 17-7 lead into a 28-20 loss in Miami. More on that later.
Even before the game was over, Ian Rappoport, labeled an NFL insider on NFL Network, was reporting that "the way that Jon Gruden handles personnel has caused a divide in that building. Gruden has what amounts to his own personnel staff..."
Rappoport gets paid in some manner by the NFL itself, right? The league wouldn't allow him to spread false rumors about a team in the NFL, right? Yeah, not even the Raiders, right?
Others with personal knowledge inside the team are starting to speak up. Former Raiders linebacker Navarro Bowman, apparently fed up with more than the team's 0-3 start, took to twitter Sunday, tweeting "Karma is Real stillwaiting."
Until then, Bowman an All-Pro with the 49ers who gave the Raiders a boost last year by leading the team in combined tackles with 89, has not talked on the record about the Raiders' decision not to bring him back. But a report on SB Nation said the team made him an offer even as he was testing free agency and another report on NBC Sports said that general manager Reggie McKenzie "would love" to have Bowman back.
That whole sideshow thrives only because the Raiders are 0-3 and they were ahead in each game. In fairness, those three teams -- the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos and now the Miami Dolphins -- have a combined record of 8-1.
If these Raiders would win just one game, it would go a long way toward shutting up people. But that is a big if, apparently. Based on some key calls in the last few minutes of the game Sunday, this team and this coach are throwing gas on the fire.
They did so well for a while, getting ahead 17-7 in the third quarter, that it certainly seemed the Raiders would snuff the Dolphins, the talk and the losing streak.
Quarterback Derek Carr had his second consecutive prolific game, completing 27-of-39 for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who caught passes from Aaron Rodgers for 10 years, finally got on the same page with Carr, catching six for 173 yards, including a 66-yarder early in the game and a 12-yard touchdown.
Running back Marshawn Lynch pounded the Dolphins for 64 yards rushing and one touchdown and added three catches for 22 yards. Running back Doug Martin added 43 yards rushing on nine carries.
But once the Raiders moved ahead by 10, 17-7, with only 2:58 left in the third quarter, the wheels came off. The Dolphins scored the next 21 points and the Raiders obviously could not think straight.
Down 21-17 with three minutes left, the Raiders still seemed to be physically overwhelming the tired and hurting Dolphins defense. Two Miami defensive linemen were out injured and those on the field were on their heels, gasping and grasping. They were so discombobulated that they couldn't even substitute correctly, which gave the Raiders the ball at the Miami 13-yard line with 2:59 on the clock.
On the two previous plays, Martin hammered the Dolphins for gains of 15 and six yards. And on the previous possession, Martin and Lynch gave Miami a touch of Beast Mode with 15 yards rushing on three of four carries.
The Dolphins seemed ripe to rip with a few more carries, to move the Raiders closer to the end zone -- or into it -- while running down the clock. That seemed obvious to Lynch's mother, who said so in a tweet:
",RUN ,AND KEEP RUNNING !!!" she tweeted.
But Gruden, who calls the plays, apparently had another idea. Instead of running the backs and the clock, Carr dropped back to pass. He was pressured by defensive end Cameron Wake and hastily threw to Martavis Bryant, who was covered closely by Xavier Howard, who intercepted at the back of the end zone.
"Man to man coverage and he (Carr) decided to take a shot and unfortunately it didn't work out," Gruden said. "We were moving the ball well, very well. ... um, we just got fooled on that particular play. The guy made a great play, great play on one-on-one coverage."
"I just saw one-on-one with Martavis," Carr said of Bryant, who caught two of five passes thrown his way for 30 yards. "Obviously he was hot and he was doing some good things and I just gave him a chance. Just like I have a hundred other times in my life. (Xavian Howard) ended up making a good play. It sucks, the outcome sucks, but going back through it in my head, getting one-on-one with that guy, I'd probably have to do it again."
In reality, that was the game. Oh, the Dolphins pulled off a tricky end-around short forward toss from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to wide receiver Albert Wilson, who was so alone on his 74-yard touchdown that he had time to high-five teammate Jakeem Grant around the 20-yard line on the way to the end zone.
The Raiders pretended to have a pulse still. They smartly deployed kicker Mike Nugent to make a 52-yard field goal on first-and-10 with 25 seconds left, hoping to get the onsides kick, score a touchdown and a two-point PAT and get into overtime. But the onsides kick failed.
Before all that after-the-fact showmanship, the big question here is why did Carr pass the ball on first-and-10 from the Miami 13 with 2:59 left? Lynch's mother made the right call on twitter. Even if Bryant caught the ball for a touchdown and the Raiders made the PAT, the Dolphins still would have 2:54 to tie the game with a field goal. Or win it with one of those trick plays.
Speaking of time left.
Raider Nation, already irate because the team traded edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, is losing patience. Many Raiders fans thought the return of Gruden would at least make the team's final year(s) in Oakland worth watching. Gruden II was supposed to be as much fun to watch as the coach was on ESPN, where he was undefeated and always right.
Instead, his 10-year, $100 million show with the Raiders is 0-3. And even Raider Nation, possibly the most resilient football fans outside of Cleveland, are already weary of this show.
Regardless, it continues next week when that Cleveland team visits. The Browns have former Raiders coach Hue Jackson (1-1-1 this year and 8-8 in his final year with Oakland) and rookie QB sensation Baker Mayfield, who came off the bench to ignite a come-from-behind victory last Thursday.
It will be interesting to see the mood of Raider Nation at that game.