Jon Gruden’s Infatuation With Jason Witten May Have Cost the Raiders the Game on Thursday

It raised a few eyebrows when the Raiders signed previously-retired tight end Jason Witten to $4 million contract. But Jon Gruden loves veteran players and with Foster Moreau recovering from a knee injury, it seemed like a reasonable idea to let the 23 year-old learn from one of the best tight ends ever to play.

But somehow along the way this year, Gruden seemed to settle in to keeping Witten on the field, even when Moreau was at full strength and playing well.

On Sunday against the Colts, Moreau was the highest-graded offensive player on the Raiders roster, according to Pro Football Focus analytics, but for some reason only played thirteen snaps. Four days later, you could make the case that Gruden’s decision to keep Moreau off the field against the Chargers may have cost the Raiders the game.

For all the terrible play from the Raiders’ defensive secondary and all the inept officiating to boot, it was the offense’s failure to score touchdowns on two trips inside the Chargers’ five yard-line that sunk the Raiders, ship on Thursday. In both cases, Witten was involved in key plays that cost the Raiders.

Consider this…

Losing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Raiders drove down the field to the Chargers five yard-line. It was first and goal from the five and Josh Jacobs took a handoff behind Jason Witten for a three-yard gain. It wasn’t a bad play, but in watching the replay it definitely looked like a pedestrian effort from Witten, who got no leverage on the block that probably kept Jacobs from getting into the end zone.

Compare Witten’s effort to a block from Moreau in the third quarter. The one-yard score from Jacobs looked simple, but it was huge block from Moreau that opened the lane for Jacobs to score.

No Title

Look at Foster Moreau (87) on the block. It’s sabotage if he doesn’t get on the field more going forward…

Now going back to the first-quarter drive that stalled at the five yard-line, it was Witten’s inability to get open on third down that resulted in what Gruden called after the game a “significant” groin injury to Derek Carr. Not only did the Raiders not score on the play, but they lost their starting quarterback – possibly for the remainder of the season.

Still, the Raiders battled back with Marcus Mariota and found themselves, once again, at the five-yard line with an opportunity to win the game in overtime.

The Raiders offensive line has taken criticism for their run blocking, but it sure looked like a missed block by Jason Witten might have cost the Raiders another touchdown on their final offensive series of the game.

Did Witten run right past the defensive end that made the tackle on Jacobs?

And for what it’s worth, Moreau wasn’t on the field for the play. Yet again.

Hindsight it always perfect, but Gruden’s decision to go with Witten over Moreau so often down the stretch has not been a good one. Witten may have been effective elsewhere during Thursday’s game, but the Raiders were particularly bad in the red zone against the Chargers, and it sure seems like Gruden’s infatuation with a 38 year-old tight end was a big part of the reason why.

Taking that logic a step farther, Gruden’s unwillingness to play Moreau over Witten may ultimately cost the Raiders a trip to the playoffs.

twitter: @raidersbeat


19 thoughts on “Jon Gruden’s Infatuation With Jason Witten May Have Cost the Raiders the Game on Thursday

  1. Win is a win lose is a lose i seen this a,say should would could but u knew when we didn’t score on are on 2 yard line and settled for field goal we we were done im a raider fan for life now I take my wife shopping this weekend were my gear and and get laughed are some raider hater comments sorry this what raiders fans do defend are mistakes and hope for next year sorry I had faith dont get me round but people love to see u lose if they nt with us Dam this hurts to send out happy hoildays raiders guess we will all be home watching playoffs together

  2. I like the article! All points are spot on! The one problem, does Gruden see his mistakes?

    1. Unfortunately NO! I have said it BEFORE AND WILL KEEP SAYING IT AS A RAIDER FAN FROM 1972 and SUFFERING FOR A LONG TIME!!!! Our defense has stunk for several consecutive years. Our Offense worked with Hue Jackson as OC ONLY! What to do about the defense I don’t know. But imagine when Hue worked magic remember who he had! Imagine what he could do with who we have now!

    2. My guess is NO, and if he does it’s usually too late (Guenther firing). And after this years draft, I have even less faith that Gruden and Mayock can make the Raiders contenders. But, it ALL goes back to dummy Mark Davis. He doesn’t have a clue. WHY hire a coach that’s been out of the league for 10 years, AND pay him an outrageous GUARANTEED contract. Gruden’s got TOO MUCH control! TIRED of his lame excuses, “this one’s of me, blame me for the loss”! Let’s get some young modern coach in there, and hire a real GM.

  3. Let’s get real…Gruden is a terrible decision maker, and he is directly responsible for half of the Raider loses, due to bad coaching decisions. Last night with the game in our hands, Gruden runs an injured Jacobs inside the 5 twice and a stupid *** screen pass ti Ingold; who couldn’t catch a cold if he tried!
    Mariotta ran the ball better than all the RBs combined, and Gruden never ran him once inside the 5? It’s amazing that he never makes the right call in crunch time. All we had to do is go for it 4 times with Marietta and win the **** game! Even losing out in 4th down, we keep the Chargers inside our 5 yard line and maybe our sorry *** defense can be motivated to get a stop, and we get another shot at the touchdown. Gruden is trash and his entire defensive staff and team us as well; which also points the finger at Mayock.
    Every year…same story, and it’s time for it to come to a much needed ending. ****…Marinelli made Geunther look good, and we know that ain’t true. Mark Davis…it’s time for big changes! I’m done making suggestions to these dumb asses, and for the first time in over 50 years, I’m contemplating finding a new team that plays to win vs playing not to lose.
    Love the Nation and feel bad for the talented players that we do have; that get destroyed and deflated by terrible failing coaching. I would love to be boss fir a day, and I would kick a lot of sorry asses out the door! Happy holidays Nation, and all I want for Christmas is a return to the old Raiders tradition of just win baby, and to get rid of the bum coaches and players that cause the due hard fans heartache each and every week with pathetic coaching and play. Winners never quit and quitters never win!

    1. I agree and have seen the same shortcomings of Gruden. The fatter he gets the worse his coaching gets.

  4. if the raiders dont draft or get atlest 1 free agent it will be the same next year we need defence we schould draft defence 3 out of 4 picks maybe offience lineman with 1 u can pick up wide receivers an running backs in later rounds

  5. No matter what anyone says, “some” people are going to defend Jon Gruden until the end. Sound familiar? EVERYONE knows that the game has passed Gruden by except the guy who is giving him 10 million dollars a year. Well Raiders fans, just get ready for another year of ineptitude as long as Jon Gruesome is at the helm. Once again, to quote the late, great Richard Pryor; “How long, will this bullshit go on? How long?”

  6. Gruden is still a good coach, but just like his team, he falls apart at the wrong time in games. If you notice, he starts out making good calls and the team gets off to a fast start. Late in games however, he starts making head scratching calls and the team cools off. Knowing how toothless his defense is, it’s astounding that he wouldn’t call more creative plays inside the 5 yard line with a chance to end the game. By settling for a field goal, knowing his defense can’t stop a Pop Warner team, he all but handed the game to the Chargers.

  7. The Chargers game was the season in a micrcosm. Poor defense, particularly against the pass. Granted missing cornerbacks, safeties, a linebacker and DE doesn’t help but this is an undisciplined D. Just as was the case all season not putting pressure on any NFL QB will make them look like an All-Pro. An offense can’t run on the field knowing that in order to win they must score over 30 points week in and week out. What was disturbing was the ineffective O line push. This line should have blown the Charger D line off the ball. They didn’t. And what was Trayvon Mullen thinking? This was a team loss. Clearly personnel a every position will need to be evaluated. It is very possible that this team just has a talent deficit and a good draft and freeing cap space to buy needed talent may have to happen.

  8. Go back and look at the colts game…very similar in the red zone….Grudens gigantic ego is the culprit. Its unbelievable to watch the same run, run roll to the right that keeps failing when they have a 1st and goal on the 4. Don’t know how Gruden could call it like that other than be so determined to run it down their throat. If he would have faked to jacob and rolled left Mariotta probably walks in…or throws it to the back of the end zone….and go for it on 4th if you have to… have NO defense.. and you aren’t stopping anybody whether you get in or not so you might as well go for it. The other mistake was 10-10 with two minutes left in the half and the Raiders go 3 and out after a very vanilla effort knowing the chargers were getting the ball first in the 2nd half…..Gruden content to take his tie into half….i can’t even think of another team that would have looked that pedestrian going into half…such a golden opportunity to make the playoffs and great effort by Mariotta and the whole team down the drain…ALL ON Gruden!

  9. Chucky is Overrated! He talks a good game but doesn’t coach one! Last night with a defense that couldn’t stop a pop Warner football team faced with a 4th and goal from the 4 yard line and over 3 minutes left in OT the great Gruden decides to forgo a TD attempt for a field goal. Even if you tank and don’t get the TD there you still pin LA deep in their end of the field and would have to go 75 yards or so to get into FG range. Gruden needed a spine there and try to end the game right then and there without the Chargers even getting the ball back. Mariota had a hot had during that drive and quite frankly from the minute he game into the game. Gruden coached team has now collapsed in December 2 years in a row! Fire Guenther? I think the wrong person walked out the door! Clean this mess up Mr.Davis you created it by hiring him back. Maybe the old man wasn’t so crazy after all when he traded him to Tampa all those years ago

  10. I thought this a few times last night.. I was baffled at the fact that they didn’t even consider putting a larger rarely used big tight end by the name of Derrick Carrier in down on the goal line! I’m very disappointed in Jon Gruden as of late.. as he says the buck stops on him and its definitely showing to be true more an more every game!

  11. I’ve been a Raider fan since 1974.. I agree with all the previous comments and the article itself. Until we get coaches that have better and new systems of play we won’t advance into the future. The NFL and their refs always hit us with flags for doing what the opponent does all game long and tv announcers agree with the lame calls cause they don’t want to go against the NFL shield. I stopped buying NFL merchandise long ago i make my own jerseys and hats I won’t give the NFL a penny of my money, for what? Just for my team to get robbed on calls. Last night Renfro took a helmet to helmet while the ref just looked on Agolor took a spearing to the ribs no flag. But I’m a Raider fan for life but I say **** the Commissioner and the NFL plus NFL network. So go RAIDERS and get younger coaching with new ideas. I’m gone

  12. My post from 12/92019, slightly over one year ago.

    Does anyone disagree that Josh Jacobs could have his football life expectancy extended if the Raiders found a complement to him?

    Will the Raiders finally, in the 2020 season, put emphasis on being able to guard an opposing teams tight end? This has been a glaring weakness forever.

    Snarls and excuses aside, will Jon Gruden ever realize that, just maybe,he needs to change his coaching philosophy? He;s currently 10 and 19 as the Raiders head coach.

    Mike Tomlin has taken an undrafted quaterback, the loss of a 1,000 yard a year wide receiver and a 1,000 yard a year rusher and still has his team perched to make a playoff run with what “some” believe is a considerably less talented team than the Raiders. Why?

    Is there a shred of hope that Mark Davis will sell this team to Jeff Bezos so that he can clean house and return this team to respectability?

    Does anyone believe that Derek Carr, Jon Gruden, Guenther Cunningham or Mike Mayock can resurrect this team?

    I said back on Sept. 23, 2019 that the destination for all four of these guys should be 6330 West Charleston Boulevard. That is the address of the Las Vegas Unemployment Office. May that happen sooner than later for the Las Vegas Raiders’ sake.

  13. This post is definitely spot-on. I was screaming at the TV when Witten “chose” to ignore the DE and instead picked out an easier target, the DB.

    It’s all on Gruden, the personnel choices, the abysmal, vanilla play calling, and the final results.

  14. Gruden is hot garbage and needs to be fired, bottom line! Carr is hot garbage too! You build a team from the inside out. Gruden only cares about offense so he has the o line in tact. Red flag number one is to allow the very best pash rusher in the game to walk away. Huh, maybe Mack was on to something from the beginning and we just didn’t see it. Defense is the way to go and he sucks at it. Fire him

  15. Lately, I’ve been seriously questioning Gruden’s play-calling. As I’ve watched the games I was able to predict the calls about 90-percent of the time, and it wasn’t difficult. 90-percent of the time on 1st down he’s going to run the ball, usually right up the middle, even though it’s an 8 man front. Apparently, defenses are predicting it as well. It is remarkable how well the offense has done with this run, run, pass predictable offense. if we showed more creativity to keep defenses off-balance, the sky the limit. He appears to be “hard-headed.” At the rate we’re going Jacobs will be beat up shortly, and is already showing signs of being worn out in just his second year. Belichick adjusts every week according to the defense he’s going to face and is unpredictable. He adapts. I don’t see enough adjustments and adaptability offensively and as they always say, “The other coaches on defense get paid too.”

  16. Dear Raiderbeat…(whomever that may be)… I watched the aforementioned tapes over a dozen times. What the heck are you talking about ? On the play at the end of the 1st Quarter, you stated that Jacobs took the ball behind Witten. Wrong, Jacobs was lined up behind Ingold, in an “I” formation, in line with the QB and the center. Witten was lined up outside the LT. He blocked the DE in front of him (I believe #93) , which was his responsibility, and moved him left by design. As for not gaining any leverage, Raider’s#82 stayed engaged for approximately 3.5 seconds, you know, just like any pedestrian would. (But I digress). Observing Ingold’s direction at the snap, I’m assuming the play was designed to go off Center. However, Jacobs didn’t have an open lane. That’s because #44 slipped between Hudson and Goode; someone missed chipping him, and it wasn’t Witten. Jason kept his feet the entire play, although football players do fall down on some plays, evidently. So #44 penetrated and confronted Jacobs. That’s when Jacobs understandably slid the play outside, however, not where it was intended to go. DB (# 35 if not mistaken), was positioned at the snap in the Defensive backfield, off the line and outside the TE . He was COMPLETELY UNBLOCKED, and met the RB squarely, the first to make contact. On that play the Raiders had 6 players on the line, counting Witten. Los Angeles had NINE Defensive players inside the box. Go back and count them ! Waller from the slot blocked one DB, while Ingold blocked another. Hudson actually reached the 2nd level, and blocked a LB. Only after that solid contact by #35 did #44 assist on the tackle, grabbing Jacobs from behind. Meanwhile, Witten’s man, the DE, finally managed to disengage in the direction he was being pushed, and helped finish the tackle. Witten did his job on that play, which was obviously intended to go up the middle. No one on the Raiders blocked the DB, #35; so how is that Jason Witten’s fault ? Now, regarding the play where Carr was injured, how does a receiver unable to get open cause a groin injury to a QB who is scrambling from pressure ? How about the other receivers on that play, Jones , Aghoular and Waller? None of them were able to get open either. So why is it Jason Witten’s fault ? Carr appeared undecided whether to try for the end zone, throw someone open, or whatever. I am a Derek Carr supporter, sad to see him injured, and hope he recovers quickly. Still, it’s an injury; it happened while the QB was trying to make a play, and it’s unreasonable of anyone trying to blame another player for it. But from a “journalist” it is totally irresponsible to place your assertion of blame in the same sentence with Coach Gruden’s description of the injury. Your wording and sentence structure might leave the casual reader with the false impression that it was Gruden’s assessment of blame, when in fact it is solely yours, Finally, examining the 1st and Goal play in OT, it was a read option for Mariota. Two WR’s left, and two TE’s right, and single RB, with a 5 man line. Defense was 4-2 up front , 5 DB’s in a Nickel. So the receivers each blocked a DB. Free Safety was unblocked, not a factor. The entire O-line blocked to the left, but DE # 98 was positioned outside the Raider’s RT. The Chargers had a 6 on 5 advantage; but somebody didn’t kick out and engage the DE. But it wasn’t on Witten; he blocked the DB who was covering him, same as the other 3 receivers did. On the 1st Quarter play, the Raiders were bunched together, and the Charger D stuffed that run. So, on the OT play, the Raiders spread them out, and the Chargers stuffed it again. Kudos to them. As for the Raiders, BOTH plays were the result of miscommunication. And if it was Foster Moreau instead of Jason, his assignments would have been exactly the same, and so would the results. Therefore, your conclusion that Jason Witten cost the Raiders the playoffs is totally unfounded. If the Raiders miss the playoffs it’s because this season the TEAM wasn’t good enough ! Furthermore, Jason Witten has established himself as one of the best blocking Tight Ends in the NFL over his entire career. And if you watched any game film at all this season, you would have already recognized that. And finally, regarding your unsupported opinion encapsulated in the title of this baseless article, if Jon Gruden has an …”infatuation with Jason Witten”, it might be better characterized as a ‘respectful appreciation’ of Jason Witten, and with good reason: Jason Witten will be a first ballot future Hall of Famer, and, if he plays the next two games, will have played more games in the NFL than anyone else at his position. Now go ahead and raise your eyebrows at that !

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