Jon Gruden has many tasks ahead of him as the 21st head coach in Oakland Raiders history. Do we have a fullback? What can be done to upgrade the defense?
However, if the Raiders are truly going to return to the playoffs they must reverse their fortunes against the other teams in the AFC West. Since 2014, the Raiders are 9-15 against their AFC West opponents.. Derek Carr started 23 of those games and despite only missing a big portion of one of those games the Raiders are 9-14 in those contests. Jon Gruden has a lot to do to rebuild Derek Carr but another thing that he has to do is getting Derek to perform better and beat AFC West teams.
Maybe I grew up listening to Al Davis too much who once told Jim Plunkett that “It doesn’t matter how you play, it only matters that we win”.
The most important games that a quarterback must win is division games. Winners of the four divisions in each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs. Division games are far too important to lose. The great quarterbacks find a way to win division games, that’s why they make the playoffs consistently and that is why they tend to win championships.
Aaron Rodgers is 40-14 against the NFC North
Tom Brady is 76-20 versus the AFC East
Ben Roethlisberger is 55-18 versus the AFC North
Joe Montana was 43-23 versus the NFC West
Ken Stabler went 40-23-2 versus the AFC West
All the men that I just listed were Super Bowl Champions and they won their division many times. Even Dan Marino, who finished 69-54 versus the AFC East only began losing in his division consistently after injuring his achilles tendon in 1993.
For the Raiders to be elite they have to win these games. They signed Derek to a big $125 million dollar deal last season and their new head coach signed for big dollars too. Now that money has to begin to pay dividends for the Raiders. They have to start beating the AFC West. Going less than 4-2 against those teams will not be acceptable in my opinion but anything less than that will likely mean that the Raiders are missing the playoffs again.
Derek Carr still has time but so far he has shown that he struggles versus AFC West teams and his ability to beat them has been sorely lacking. He has beaten all three AFC West teams but he has never beaten Kansas City in Arrowhead Stadium despite four attempts to do so.