Approaching the end of November the Raiders were 6-4 on the season, coming off three straight wins, all at home. Then they headed out on a two-game road trip, starting in New York and then to Kansas City to lead out December. They ended December in Denver and ended the season losing five of their last six games. The only win coming over the Chargers in front of a very Raiders fan heavy crowd in Los Angeles.
What happened to this team that ten games in was neck and neck for the AFC West title and looking like a sure bet to punch their ticket to the playoffs? Gruden offered a theory.
“I think the cold weather is one thing,” Gruden said attempting to explain the late season collapse. “We got to prove that we can exercise that demon. We got to play better in bad weather. I remember when I went to Tampa Bay and we hadn’t won a game in the history of the franchise in temperatures that were below 40 degrees. And every single game we played, that’s all we heard. And we’re going to continue to hear it until we prove as a west coast team that we can go out on a cold day and win.”
That’s an interesting theory. It’s also interesting considering the inability to win in cold weather was a big criticism Derek Carr was receiving.
Carr is 1-10 all time in temperatures 45 degrees or below. It was 43 degrees and raining in the 34-3 drubbing the Raiders took in New York, 36 degrees in Carr’s personal house of horrors; Arrowhead in Kansas City, and 31 degrees in Denver. The offense scored a total of 27 points in those games.
The defense doesn’t get off the hook either. They gave up 74 combined points in New York and Kansas City.
Gruden values toughness above all else. He often talks about how impressed he is when players are able to fight through injuries to get on the field. The term ‘Gruden Grinder’ isn’t just a clever use of alliteration. It means something. If he thinks his players aren’t able to perform at a high level in inclement weather, that’s a big deal to him.
“We got to get wins on the road and we got to look forward to playing when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s nasty and when it’s awful. You got to learn to love the misery,” Gruden continued. “Maybe we got to leave on a Wednesday next year and get acclimated to it. I’m not making any excuses, but that’s one thing that’s pretty obvious and noticeable. We got to play better in lousy weather. We got to play better period, in all three phases.”
In 2020, the Raiders will have a cozy domes stadium in Vegas. But they will still be traveling to New York, New England, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Denver. More than one of those games figures to be in the cold latter part of the season, so if the weather is really the issue, they have got to get a handle on that.