After consecutive 4-12 seasons, and more than a decade of futility overall, the Oakland Raiders and their long suffering fanbase finally had a sense of hope and optimism following one of the better offseasons the franchise has seen in quite a while. The infusion of veteran talent with championship pedigrees via players like Justin Tuck, James Jones and LaMarr Woodley, as well as the addition of young, explosive playmakers like Khalil Mack was going to bring the Raiders back to respectability, if not prominence. Yet for many, it seems that in the wake of one meaningless exhibition game, that sense of hope and optimism has evaporated and some are climbing over one another to jump off the Oakland bandwagon.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, many of those disgruntled fans are venting their rage upon the most convenient target available – QB Matt Schaub. In the wake of the 10-6 setback to the Minnesota Vikings, fans across the Raider Nation took to social media, as well as the comment sections of various articles to give voice to their extreme displeasure, calling Schaub anything from a “bum” to a “loser” – and those were the nicer ways he was described.
While it’s true that Schaub’s debut performance for the Raiders (3-for-7, 21 yards) was less than awe inspiring, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the overreaction of some fans would seem to indicate. There is much more behind those numbers than these frustrated fans are seeing.
Schaub had just three series of work in the opener against Minnesota. For a rhythm quarterback like Schaub – or most NFL QBs – it’s hard to find a real groove with just three series of play. That’s especially true when the team you take the field with has as many new faces as the Raiders do, and they’re seeing their first live game action as a unit.
Schaub has been lambasted for going not leading the Raiders into Vikings territory, let alone lead them to a score. He went three and out in his three series worth of action and gained only one first down. While those stats sound terrible, they don’t tell the complete story. Of Schaub’s four incomplete passes, three were dropped by his receivers – two that were drive killers. TE Mychal Rivera accounted for two of those drops on his own. In his limited action, Schaub only threw one pass that was actually uncatchable.
Schaub’s stats are underwhelming, to be sure, but he sure didn’t get any help from his offensive weapons either. If you actually give a critical and logical look at how each of Schaub’s three drives ended, it looks very different than looking at it purely through an emotional prism.
Raiders fans are understandably frustrated. Losing for so many years tends to do that to a fanbase. And with the hope and optimism inspired by such a strong offseason, watching the team fall flat in the first game was even more frustrating and perhaps even a bit disheartening. But it is vital for Raiders fans to remember that despite a number of very key pieces and vast upgrades throughout the roster, the team is still very much a work in progress. It will take a little bit of time for these disparate parts to jell together into one cohesive unit.
Schaub is a good quarterback who didn’t have the strongest debut. But place the blame where it belongs — on the team as a whole — and have a little patience. It’s far too early to give up on Schaub and on the Raiders yet. Give them a little bit of time and have a little bit of patience as they figure it all out. Because when they do, this team has the potential to be far better than anybody could have imagined.