As a team, the Las Vegas Raiders have been bad over the last two decades. They only have one winning season since 2002 and that’s because of struggles on both sides of the ball. That said, the defense has taken center stage over the last decade. Even having Khalil Mack for four seasons couldn’t turn the defense into a solid unit. In fact, ESPN named the Raiders as the worst defense of the decade from 2010-2019.
It’s easy to blame the players as the team hasn’t always put together great rosters. However, the coaches probably deserve a lot of the blame. Former Raiders cornerback Sean Smith had a very productive stint with the Kansas City Chiefs before he left for Oakland on a big contract. Unfortunately, he struggled greatly with the team and isn’t the most popular figure for the Raiders fan base.
He hasn’t played since 2017 and has finally opened up about why he struggled in Oakland by arguing with some fans on Twitter.
Smith even went so far as to insinuate that the Raiders coaches would rather lose than adapt their gameplans.
Considering how bad the Raiders’ defense has been, it’s hard to argue with Smith.
Smith Played Under the Del Rio-Norton Regime
The most surprising thing about the Raiders’ defenses being so terrible is the fact that they had defensive-minded head coaches for most of the previous decade. Dennis Allen clearly knows what he’s doing on defense as he’s led top units in Denver and New Orleans. However, his defenses were terrible in Oakland.
Jack Del Rio was brought in after, who was another successful defensive coordinator, and he couldn’t figure out how to turn things around. Smith played under Del Rio so his criticisms are aimed at him. Luckily, it’s starting to look like things are going to turn around.
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2020s Looking More Promising
Paul Guenther’s first two years as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator have been a disaster. That said, he’s proven he can be successful in the past and now has a lot more talent to work worth. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have given him so much young defensive talent while also investing in proven veterans. The defense took a small step forward last year and could take an even bigger step in 2020.
With all the young talent the Raiders have accumulated on defense, it’s hard to imagine the defense gets named worst of the decade in 2030. Even if Guenther can’t find success, the team has Rod Marinelli waiting in the wings. There’s just too much talent for the Raiders not to improve. All three levels of the defense have exciting players. Between Maxx Crosby, Trayvon Mullen, Cory Littleton and Johnathan Abram, it’s hard not to imagine the future is bright. There will be growing pains on the way and the defense is probably still a year or two from being really good but they’re certainly on their way.