There is no team in the NFL that has gone through more off-the-field drama recently than the Las Vegas Raiders. The team parted ways with head coach Jon Gruden after the contents of old e-mails were leaked, and this week the team released receiver Henry Ruggs III following an unfortunate car crash that left one person dead.
The Raiders found themselves atop the AFC West heading into Sunday’s contest against the New York Giants despite all of this. But despite totaling nearly 160 more yards than the Giants and holding them under 100 passing yards on the day, the Raiders were doomed by three turnovers, including a crucial pick-six in the third quarter as they fell 23-16 in New York.
Coming out of the contest, it would have been understandable for the Raiders to point to all of their issues as the reason for their disappointing performance, but tight end Darren Waller and the rest of the team refused to use that as an excuse. Waller did admit it was tough, but insisted that all the team can do is keep moving forward and focus on football, via Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“It is shocking, and you know it does hurt a little bit, but all we can do is the best we can to move forward and focus on football,” he said. “Nobody asked for this, but at the same time, as far as training in resilience and adversity, I feel like we’re getting the best practice and training you could possibly get in that. So we just have to keep moving forward.”
There is no way for a team to prepare themselves for issues like what the Raiders are facing, as there is simply no way to predict it happening. To lose a head coach and your leading wide receiver in less than a month is beyond difficult, regardless of the circumstances.
But these are the cards the Raiders have been dealt, and they must push through to continue what has been an excellent season for them so far. As Waller said, focusing on football is all they can do, and even with the loss, the Raiders remain in prime position for a playoff push.
Every team faces some sort of adversity throughout the season, and while the Raiders are seeing some that nobody could have imagined, how they come out of this will show a lot about the fight of this team as a whole.