By Conor Orr
November 02, 2018

If you didn’t know already, this is what it feels like to be grifted.

Some people are blessed with the ability to sell a vision. To convince. To will their ideas onto an unsuspecting public. To posit themselves as a man with all the answers.

And when things go wrong, it all feels normal because it’s part of the plan. Just wait, they’ll say, until you see what we’re building here. You won’t be sorry.

On Thursday night the Raiders were destroyed, 34-3, by a 1-7 49ers team not-so-secretly trying to lose out the season so they can arm injured franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with a top pick in the draft. Oakland faced a quarterback, Nick Mullens, who had been on the 49ers’ active roster for a little more than a month and allowed him to go 16-of-22 for 262 yards and three touchdown passes. San Francisco had four plays of 25 yards or more. There were holes a mile wide for Niners backs Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida to run through.

On offense, the one place that, by now, Oakland should be showing an ounce of progress, the Raiders slogged in and out of the huddle, even as the deficit ballooned above 25 points. Routes were blanketed instantly by a ho-hum 49ers defense. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, who, before this, had been to three Pro Bowls, was just trying to make it out alive. Where are the results from years in the laboratory? After 10 years of watching offensive football explode into something spectacular and unstoppable, what has Jon Gruden learned?

How much worse can it get? This Raiders team still plays the Chiefs twice this season. They still play the Steelers and the Chargers. Fifty percent of the 2018 campaign has not happened yet. One veteran has chosen to retire rather than continue to make thousands per week to play a children’s game under the current set of circumstances.

On the Fox broadcast, they brought up Jimmy Johnson, Herschel Walker and the Great Trade Robbery, comparing it to whatever is happening in Oakland. People of authority point to this defeated sideline and believe it is a fertile ground from which a dynasty can grow. We should all relax, because Gruden is playing the long game.

The benefit of the doubt is an amazing thing, sometimes. Would three first-round draft picks change the demeanor of this Raiders team as currently constructed? Would fifty? How many unnamed players who are apparently desperate to bet their uncertain careers on this experiment need to be added before the team actually looks like it wants to be there?

At the very least, shouldn’t that be something Oakland can show during this long, complicated rebuild?  

After the game, Gruden stepped to the podium and said he knows for a fact that players want to come here. That he can get people excited about the Raiders again, and that they will build a championship football team. Luckily for him, those comments will go largely unchecked by the people who matter, just as they have for the last six months.

NOW ON THE MMQB: A tribute to Paul Zimmerman, a man we all owe an immense debt to. Someone who took the craft so seriously, and loved it deeply … Jimmy Traina on what it was like to be Dr. Z’s personal editor … The Best of Dr. Z. Start with his beautiful Howie Long piece, and don’t stop.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Is this a down year for receivers in the coming NFL draft? … Brady vs. Rodgers, the unlikely rise of two NFL greats…. Making sense of the 2018 trade deadline.


1. Self-awareness was never a strength for Hue Jackson, but his exit interview with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer is absolutely stunning. Why did things go wrong? Not enough Hue Jackson, apparently.

2. It took me half a decade of grinding to get that blue Twitter checkmark. Nick Mullens got one after about two quarters on Thursday

3. Speaking of Mullens, it’s not often we’re moved by staged post-game interviews. But man, watching him on Thursday night was fun.

4. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers say nice things about each other. A steamy preamble to Sunday’s showdown.

5. Some interesting comments from Derrick Henry, who has not yet blossomed into the feature back Tennessee had hoped.

6. The “Le’Veon Bell wasn’t really that good to begin with” train has left the station, and it is operating at max speed.

7. Who have been the best rookies so far?


Halloween has passed, but I still cannot stop thinking about these children and their amazing transformer costumes.

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