- The Las Vegas Raiders fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on Sunday following a 44-27 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
- The Raiders have the #30 scoring defense in the NFL ahead of only the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.
- Las Vegas has lost three of their last four games allowing an average of 40.6 PPG.
When the Las Vegas Raiders made the move from Oakland to Southern Nevada for the 2020 NFL season there was a sense that this could be something of a ‘honeymoon’ year. The thinking was that the Las Vegas Valley would just be happy to have a NFL team and wouldn’t judge the Raiders too harshly based on their performance on the field. The lack of fans at Allegiant Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic only served to make 2020 seem like more of a ‘mulligan’ with the Raiders *real* debut in Southern Nevada to come in Fall 2020.
On Sunday, it became readily apparent that this is not the case. Less than three hours after the Indianapolis Colts dropped a 44-27 verdict on the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium the team fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Las Vegas has now lost three of their last four games allowing an average of 40.6 PPG in the defeats. Before this defensive downward spiral, the Raiders stood at 6-3 and had a legitimate shot in making the playoffs during their first season in the Silver State. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli will serve as interim defensive coordinator for the rest of the season.
The Indianapolis game showed the Raiders’ recent defensive struggles in microcosm. The offense did their part keeping the game close throughout the first half and briefly holding a 14-10 lead after a 21 yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. After halftime, the Raiders cut the deficit to 3 with a 25 yard Daniel Carlson field goal only to watch the defense collapse the rest of the way. From that point, the Colts outscored the Raiders 24-3 to put the game away though Las Vegas did add a meaningless touchdown in ‘garbage time’ with less than a minute remaining.
Not that Guenther has ever been a mastermind with the Raiders’ defense. Since taking over as defensive coordinator before the 2018 season the team’s defensive statistics have been abysmal. During that stretch the Raiders had the worst PPG against in the NFL (28.4) and ranked #31 in yards against per play (6.04), #29 in passer rating against (98.9), #30 in takeaways (47) and dead last in sacks (60). The rushing defense this year has been marginally better than the defense against the pass but the big blow on Sunday was the Colts’ 212 rushing yards against–the second consecutive game that Guenther’s defense had been shredded for over 200 yards on the ground.
Head coach Jon Gruden didn’t mince words with his postgame comments:
“Defensively, we had no answer today. You can’t give up that many yards rushing, not get to the quarterback and then lose the turnover margin and expect to win in this league.”
“We better find some answers and as soon as I’m done here, we’ll start searching.”
Guenther is a close friend of Gruden’s and that probably kept him employed longer than it should have. Speaking to the media late last week Guenther tried to put the onus on the team’s injury situation this season:
“I can’t tell you one game we’ve had this year where somebody hasn’t had to go in and play more snaps than they thought they [were going to have to] before the game. So I told the guys, ‘Everyone’s got to prepare like they are a starting player.’ You almost would rather [know] this player is not going to play this week rather than have it happen, say, in the first quarter of the game, where you’ve got to kind of move the chess pieces around a little bit and change your plan. So, that’s probably been the most challenging thing, in-game adjustments we’ve had to make. Particularly the last few weeks.”
Las Vegas QB Derek Carr didn’t throw the defense under the bus when asked if it was tough to continually have to make up for their mistakes but his dismay was evident:
“My job is to take care of the football, and my job is to move it. A team down the field scores touchdowns, and I didn’t do that good enough today. It is what it is.”
Las Vegas will host the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium on Thursday, December 17. They’ll play at home again the day after Christmas against the Miami Dolphins before concluding the regular season at Denver on January 3.