Skip to contents
NFL

Josh McDaniels Can Lose To Anybody

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

If you were to get a call from the Denver Broncos today, and told that the team wanted you to take over as head coach for next weekend’s game against the Raiders, what chances would you give yourself at success? Before you write off the possibility of some clown being plucked from their couch and beating a real NFL team coached by a guy with decades of experience at the pro level, you should know that this exact scenario played out on Sunday, and the clown won.

The Colts showed up in Vegas without a real starting quarterback or head coach and with just some guy calling the plays, a duty that fell to him because the aforementioned head coach, Jeff Saturday, has never called plays at any level. I doubt even Saturday himself would have predicted that his first game on a non–high school sideline would end in success, because bad football teams that are run by guys whose decision-making process seems to involve a dart board tend not to perform well. But anyone discounting the Colts’ and Saturday’s chances in this game had forgotten about one thing: Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels lives to fail against all odds.

The Colts, with the corpse of Matt Ryan back under center, beat the Raiders 25-20. The Raiders started the fourth quarter with a three-play touchdown drive that gave them a one-point lead, only to let the Colts go on a five-play, 83-yard scoring drive a few minutes later. That drive included Ryan, who is 37 damn years old, scrambling for a 39-yard gain on third-and-3:

The Raiders still had a good chance at getting the win after that, though. They went all the way to the red zone on the ensuing drive, and had a first-and-10 on the Colts’ 19 with 1:38 to play. Las Vegas moved the ball three yards on the next four plays before turning it over on downs and giving Saturday his first win as a head coach. The Raiders are now 2-7 with a handful of blown leads and humiliating losses in the books—they’ve blown three 17-point leads this season!—but this one seems to have sent the team over the edge. That’s where quarterback Derek Carr is, judging by the amount of crying he did during his postgame press conference:

The Raiders were a playoff team last year, a feat they accomplished after one of their best receivers was arrested for vehicular homicide and their head coach was shoved out the door for sending racist emails. It takes a special kind of loser to take over a team in that kind of situation and somehow make things even bleaker, and McDaniels is that loser. It’s been 10 years since McDaniels lost his first and only other head coaching gig after going 3-9 in his second year with the Broncos, and he seems to not have developed any new skills or understanding of how to lead a football team over the course of that decade.

McDaniels has now lost 16 of the last 21 games he’s coached, and it doesn’t look like the Raiders have any choice but to watch that record grow more lopsided. You may remember that owner Mark Davis gave Jon Gruden a ridiculous 10-year, $100 million contract back in 2018, and was thus forced to hand over a hefty buyout when Gruden’s racist emails necessitated him leaving the team well before his contract ran out. If there’s any owner in the NFL who is currently less equipped to add yet another coach’s dead salary to his balance sheet, it’s Davis. McDaniels signed a four-year deal before the start of the season, which goes a long way toward explaining why Davis’s only reaction so far to watching this guy ruin a competitive football team has been having a meeting with him.

McDaniels’s continued presence on the Raiders sideline can at least provide a special utility for his remaining opponents. If any other head coaches want to take a day off, or see if that intern in the video room has any potential as a future play-caller, their next game against Las Vegas will offer the perfect opportunity to experiment.

Recommended

The Colts’ New Offensive Play-Caller Is Some Guy