Oakland Raiders fans will be quick to place the shutout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on the shoulders of quarterbacks Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer due to the six interceptions thrown by the two. However, a large part of the loss should fall on the shoulders of Coach Hue Jackson, who made a number of questionable decisions in the losing effort.
Jackson failed as a coach in two major ways against the Chiefs, both of which were major contributing factors in the Raiders loss to Kansas City. The first way in which Jackson failed was as a playcaller. The Raiders offensive playcalling was lackluster at best and flat out bad at worst. The second way in which Jackson failed was in his personel decisions.
Hue Jackson’s first questionable move as a playcaller came in the second quarter when the Raiders had a first and goal at the Kansas City 5 yard line. Jackson, who has shown his willingness to think outside the box as a playcaller, became unbearably predictable once the Raiders had a first and goal, calling four straight running plays featuring their goal line back Michael Bush. It was so obvious that Jackson did not trust Boller, the Chiefs were able to stack the box and easily prevent Bush from scoring.
In addition, at the time, the Raiders were trailing by two touchdowns and were not out of the game yet. Had Jackson kicked the field goal, the Raiders would have trailed 14-3 at half and would have started the third quarter with the ball. Instead, the Raiders gave any and all momentum achieved on that drive right back to Kansas City and allowed them to go into half time with their heads held high, while the Raiders went into half time thinking they had no chance.
The goal line stand was the most obvious failure as a playcaller by Jackson, but it was not the only issue. The entire game, Jackson was incredibly boring and uncreative with his play calling. It was clear that the Raiders were not going to win this game by throwing the ball, and yet, that is exactly what Jackson did. There will be those who say that he had to because the Raiders were trailing, but that is not entirely true. This team has the speed and ability to make big plays without throwing the ball 50 yards.
The Raiders only ran one end around, very few runningback screen passes and no wide receiver screen passes, three plays that have drawn massive success for the Raiders speedy offensive players. Rather than being creative with his playcalling, Jackson went with a strict diet of run the ball until you have to throw the ball, becoming increadibly predictable and allowing the Chiefs defense to run wild.
Jackson not only made mistakes in his playcalling, but he also made massive mistakes with his personel decisions, the first of which was at the quarterback position. I do not have a problem with the fact that he started Kyle Boller, it was a reasonable decision to make. However, if you start Boller, and then you lose all faith in him to run your offense, then you need to take him out of the game. It was clear mid way through the second quarter that Jackson had lost all faith in his quarterback. If he was going to bring in Carson Palmer, he should have done so to start the third quarter at the latest.
Instead, Jackson brought in Palmer after five minutes had run off in the third quarter, and after the Raiders had fallen behind 21-0. By putting Palmer in at this point in the game, he was all but guaranteeing failure for the new Raiders quarterback. Had Palmer come in to start the third quarter, the Raiders would have been able to maintain a balanced offense and allow Palmer to lean more on the running game that was not being shut down at that point. Instead, Palmer came in at a time where it would have taken a miracle performance by him to secure the win. It placed too much pressure on Palmer and placed him in a situation where he was much more likely to fail than succeed.
While the quarterback use was undoubtedly questionable, it was not the only personel blunder by Hue Jackson. Shortly after Darren McFadden went out of the game with a foot injury, Michael Bush was being bolstered by speedy rookie Taiwan Jones. Despite getting very little playing time this season, Jones gained 18 yards on three carries rather quickly. However, despite putting up 6 yards per carry on those three touches, he was not seen in the backfield again for the remainder of the game.
While Bush had a very solid game, had the Raiders use Jones as a change of pace back, it would have kept the Chiefs defense off balance and prevented them from stacking the line of scrimmage like they did. With Bush, you know the handoff is going right up the gut. With Jones, you have the ability to stretch the field horizontally and force the outside linebackers to stay home on the outside. This would have opened up the run game and the passing game at the same time.
While the Raiders were put behind the eightball as a result of the two early interceptions by Kyle Boller, Hue Jackson’s reaction to those interceptions all but sealed the win for the Chiefs. Rather than playing to the strengths of the Raiders and showing confidence in his team, he showed fear and called plays as though he was simply trying to get out of the building without being embarassed too badly.
This loss needs to fall on the shoulders of Hue Jackson more so than Kyle Boller or Carson Palmer. The game was winnable despite the early interceptions, but Jackson played it in a way that guaranteed a Chiefs victory in Oakland.