By Steve Corkran
Sunday, January 1st, 2012 at 7:45 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson promised to build a bully, solve the penalties issue and get his defense to stop the run. In the end, none of those things happened, and he fared no better than his predecessor, Tom Cable, in guiding the Raiders to an 8-8 record after a 38-26 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
However, Jackson did make good on one promise. He delivered that one Oct. 18 during an introductory news conference the day Jackson engineered a trade for quarterback Carson Palmer.
“This team is poised to win; whatever we need to win,” Jackson said that day. “I said that before. We’re not putting people on the team just to put them on there. We’re chasing a championship. I’m not going to tell you I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t, but I’ll probably be mad if we didn’t.”
Jackson’s anger was evident during his postgame news conference Sunday, saying numerous times how “pissed” he is at his players and for how the Raiders squandered an opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
“To say I’m pissed off is an understatement,” Jackson said in his opening remarks, with a scowl on his face. “Obviously, we got beat here at home, and it didn’t’ look like a football team that was hungry enough to go win the AFC West title.”
The Raiders entered the day with a shot at making the AFC Playoffs, either as the AFC West champion or the second of two wild-card entrants.
The wild-card scenarios vanished just about the time the Raiders started their game against the Chargers. It became AFC West or bust.
Near the end of the game, fans chanted “Denver lost” as a means of spurring on the Raiders. Numerous players said they were aware the Broncos had lost and all they needed to do was take care of business against a Chargers team with no playoff aspirations, and the division title was theirs.
Yet, it wasn’t to be. The Chargers marched 99 yards midway through the fourth quarter for a touchdown that sealed the victory and prompted fans to boo in unison.
“Words can’t describe how disappointed we are,” strong safety Tyvon Branch said. “We had everything set up for us. We had a roller coaster season and we had a chance to get in the big tournament still, and we blew it.”
Jackson was convinced that his team was ready for the big stage, that they would find a way to get it done.
“I thought this team was ready to take the next step,” Jackson said. “We didn’t get it done. It’s my responsibility, and so I understand that, and I’m pissed, to say the least.”
Free safety Michael Huff said he appreciates Jackson’s dour mood. However, the blame falls upon the players and not Jackson or defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.
“We should all be pissed,” Huff said. “To be this close and to blow it, it’s nothing the coaches did. The players didn’t play (well). I know some people are going to try to blame Chuck, some people are going to try to blame Hue but, at the end of the day, we’re the ones on the field.
“Regardless of the defense that’s called, we got to line up and play and execute. I don’t want anybody going out there and trying to blame the coaches because it’s on us.”
When asked who he was mad at, Jackson made it abundantly clear who he was talking about.
“I’m pissed at my team,” Jackson said. “At some point in time, as a group of men, you go in the game, and you can say whatever you want about coaches, you win the game. Here’s your time. Here’s your time to make plays.
“We didn’t get ‘em stopped. And we didn’t make enough plays. So, yeah, I’m pissed at the team. I’m also, like I tell them, I’ll always put it on me, but I am pissed at my team. Because when you have those kinds of opportunities, you’ve got to do it, and we didn’t do it.”
Jackson wasn’t pulling any punches, either.
Someone has to be held accountable for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completing 19 of 26 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, without any sacks or interceptions. Or the Chargers rushing for 153 yards, at 4.9 yards a pop.
“Nah, uh-uh, I’m not making no more excuses for nobody,” Jackson said. “I’ve taken this thing on all year and, look, bottom line is, we don’t tackle very well in the secondary, we don’t make the plays that you have to make in the secondary to be very successful. We’re not where we need to be yet. It’s my job, and I’m going to get it fixed.”
When asked about Bresnahan’s status for next season, Jackson said he isn’t answering that right now.
Jackson did say that the Raiders defense needs to play as a cohesive unit, some guys need to make more plays and an “attitude adjustment” is in store.
“Chuck knows how I feel,” Jackson said. “I’m disappointed over there. I have been. It’s not like we haven’t had conversations. Chuck knows what I feel, and it’s not good enough. …
“When you play defense in the NFL, man, you got to hunt. You can’t give up 28, 29 points and expect to win. You’re not going to do that. I’ve challenged our guys, I’ve challenged everybody and, obviously, we’re not responding to it. We got to get better.”
Jackson said he has been aware of the issues holding back the Raiders for some time. Now that the season is over, it’s time for him to let it out and talk about what needs to be done going forward.
For one, Jackson said, he intends to take on an even heavier hand in how the team is run. He is hell-bent upon making sure he doesn’t feel again the way he feels right now.
“I’m going take a stronger hand in this whole team, this whole organization,” Jackson said. “There ain’t no way that I’m going to feel like I feel today a year from now, I promise you that. There’s no question.
“Defensively, offensively and special teams. I aint feeling like this no more. This is a joke. To have a chance at home to beat a football team that is reeling after being beaten by Detroit, is one of your rivals, and come in and beat us like that … yeah, I’m going to take a hand in everything that goes on here.”
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