LONDON -- The last time Oakland played at Wembley Stadium, in 2014, the Raiders were so embarrassed by a blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins that Dennis Allen was fired as coach upon the team’s return to the United States.
Jon Gruden, with his 10-year, reported $100 million contract, is not about to get canned after a near international incident in Sunday's abysmal showing in a 27-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
But this much is clear -- the Raiders should have "Construction Zone" signs hanging all over the place as they try to navigate through a messy rebuild and a 1-5 start in Gruden’s return to Oakland.
And with it comes surprise turning to frustration for the veterans on the team who experienced success two seasons ago.
“I hope not, you know what I mean?” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who took an absolute beating with six sacks and an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder on the final hit.
“This is my fifth year. I don’t, we don’t like [talk of a rebuild], you know? I feel like we’ve done that a little bit, right? Nobody likes to do that ... this being my fifth year, you want [success] now. You want everything now. I know our fans want it now, and trust me, we’re trying to do it now. But we’ve got to take this bye week, look at what we can do to play better right off this bye week, what we can do to win that game. That’s where our mindset has to be.”
Whistling past the graveyard? Probably, because whether the Raiders realize it or not, or whether they like it or not, they are in this messy rebuild ... two seasons after winning 12 games. Necessitated by either injuries, ineffectiveness or trades, Oakland is again an NFL bottom-feeder playing a gaggle of rookies, past-their-prime veterans and shell-shocked Pro Bowlers.
And it would go against the promise of Raiders owner Mark Davis, who promised fans when the team won the vote to move to Las Vegas that they would try to win a Super Bowl before leaving the Bay Area.
The holes are glaring. Oakland’s offensive line had two starters at the tackle positions -- first-round pick Kolton Miller, who has a sprained right knee, on the left side and third-rounder Brandon Parker on the right side -- and Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele missed his second straight game with a knee injury. His replacement, Jon Feliciano, left the game in the first half with a rib injury and was replaced by third-stringer Justin Murray.
Then there was receiver Amari Cooper getting absolutely blasted and concussed on a clear helmet-to-helmet hit by Seahawks strong safety Bradley McDougal, though no flag was thrown. His replacement, Seth Roberts, was also lost to a concussion in the second half.
“We lost some men today, and hopefully they can heal up ... we know we have a ways to go here,” Gruden said.
“We’re going to continue to build the team. I’ve only been here for six or seven months. We got some players hurt.”
Then there’s this: only three players of the 26 drafted from 2015 through 2017 started in London -- Cooper, Feliciano and middle linebacker Marquel Lee.
Gruden also had a message for the rookies on his team, the purported foundation pieces of Chucky 2.0.
He told them to remember this feeling, presumably the bitter taste of such a dispiriting defeat, when you get beat up both physically and mentally.
“We came in and we got our ass whooped,” said rookie defensive end Arden Key, who got his first career sack. “There’s no way around it. We got our ass whooped, first whistle to the last whistle. So, we’ve just got to remember that and come out with fire next week and continue to come out with fire.”
Next week, the Raiders are off. In two weeks, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts visit Oakland for the first time since, well, they got this rebuild in motion by breaking Carr’s leg in Week 16 of the 2016 season, when the Raiders were 12-3.
Since that fateful snap, the Raiders are 7-17, including a playoff loss against the Houston Texans.
Leave it to veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin, then, to put a little personal perspective on things.
“We lost, but I’ve got a beautiful wife I get to go home to, boy,” Irvin said. “I’m going to try to make some babies, man.”
Talk about a rebuild.