ALAMEDA, Calif. — Does Todd Downing have only one game remaining as the Oakland Raiders’ offensive coordinator?
Coach Jack Del Rio on Wednesday came close to giving Downing, who was elevated from quarterbacks coach last offseason to replace the departed Bill Musgrave, a vote of confidence. Though, it could also be seen as a parting gift.
“Obviously, a lot of things have gone in a negative direction,” Del Rio said. “But I do know the guy is super bright. He’s going to be a real good coach in this league and I believe in him. So those are not things that people want to hear right now because the reality is we’ve underperformed offensively this year and so there’s going to be, naturally, there are going to be these kinds of questions and I think we all understand it. I understand it, he understands it.
“But it doesn’t change my belief. It’s what I know. But there have been a tough set of circumstances and things have not gone real smooth. And it’s not what we’re looking for. But this is really about the Chargers. … We can get into season-ending talk when it’s appropriate next week.”
Under Downing, the Raiders have regressed from the No. 6 total offense in the NFL in 2016 — they averaged 373.3 yards per game and scored 416 points, the seventh most in the league — to the No. 19 total offense, averaging 323.3 yards per game and scoring 291 points, 23rd most in the NFL.
Perhaps most glaring has been the regression of quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension this past summer after finishing tied for third in NFL MVP voting.
But many observers have claimed Downing’s offense and route trees for receivers became too simplistic and the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch and stretch-zone runs negatively affected the once-dominant offensive line.
And the Raiders fell from a 12-4 record last season to a 6-9 mark heading into this Sunday’s finale at the Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).
Turnover differential is a major reason as well. Oakland tied for the league lead last season at plus-16, but it enters Week 17 29th in the NFL at minus-12.
“Basic execution,” Del Rio said, “is the difference between being happy and not.”
Del Rio essentially chose the potential of Downing, 37, over the résumé of Musgrave, and Downing said after his hiring that any changes to the offense would be “subtle” going forward.
“We’re going to keep the same system terminology,” he said at the time. “There’s no reason to change any of that stuff. All we’re doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better and how we can just quarter-turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible.”
Downing was also asked if he considered himself an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it type of coach.
“Yeah, I definitely think that that’s a phrase you can tag to me,” he said. “I believe … in efficiency. And if we’re efficient in a concept, I am not going to go changing it just for change sake. If we’re inefficient or we failed to live up to expectations in a certain concept, then I am going to figure out a way to tinker with it and make it work. If I can’t make it work, we simply won’t do it anymore.”