The Oakland Raiders Letting Bill Musgrave Walk Is The Right Decision

The decision made by Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders to let (former) Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave walk is absolutely the right move.

Approximately 103 weeks ago, some guy named Matthew Lorschieder wrote a profile of sorts about Bill Musgrave on this very site, detailing Musgrave’s career and history as a coach in this league. Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders had just hired Musgrave — somewhat of an unexpected move after several reports pegged former Bears head coach Marc Trestman as a favorite for the job.

Matthew did a pretty thorough job of breaking down the various roles and stops of Musgrave’s coaching resume, after which he crystallized his thoughts with this:

It’s unclear why Del Rio and the Raiders front office chose to go with Musgrave over Trestman. Trestman obviously has much more experience, some head coaching background, and is known as a guru of the West Coast offense. Del Rio does have history with Musgrave, but he also fired Musgrave after two years….he has a solid track record with young quarterbacks as well as veteran quarterbacks, and the organization may like how his style fits the young Derek Carr.

Del Rio may also prefer Musgrave’s more well-rounded offensive philosophies. In Jacksonville (with Del Rio) and in Minnesota, Musgrave favored the run game, and his offenses were near the top of the league in rushing attempts per game. Obviously both situations involved teams with mediocre young quarterbacks (Ponder, Leftwich), but Del Rio might want to emphasize the run in Oakland in order to allow Derek Carr to develop without the pressure of the entire offense landing on his shoulders. Del Rio’s hire of Mike Tice – a noted run-blocking guru – would indicate that the offensive plan is to run the ball while Carr grows at the QB position.

Musgrave’s recent experience developing a young passer is another strength, while Trestman has not had a chance to develop a young passer in the NFL since his time working with Jake Plummer in Arizona.

Basically.

Have you ever gone to eat at somebody’s house and tasted something absolutely terrific, and asked the person who made it how they did it? And then, if they’re gracious enough, they give you (or your girlfriend, because you probably can’t cook) a detailed, step-by-step recipe telling you exactly how to make this dish or drink or whatever, and you gather all of the ingredients and follow the instructions to the letter, and the dish comes out and you’re super excited and just waiting on it to cool down, and you finally taste it, only to end up completely and utterly disappointed with the result? I mean, it tastes good enough — you have all of the ingredients correct, down to the brand name, you measure and remeasure and try it three different ways, but you just can’t make it taste like the first time you had it, when the other person made it?

That’s what watching a Bill Musgrave-coordinated offense is like. It’s totally fine! Perfectly ok. More than competent. If you absolutely need offensive production, it will suffice. But it will never ever be what you want it to be.

For as brilliant as the Raiders’ offense had been in certain moments since Musgrave took over in 2015 — specifically, starting with the three-game run against the Chargers, Jets and Steelers last season — there is an equal number of moments of maddening ineptitude that stand out just as prominently over the course of his tenure. There are times when Musgrave’s play design is a true sight to behold, a fantastic marvel. And there are times when I’m more than positive I could call a better game with only a Tecmo Bowl playbook at my disposal.

Such is the basis of my gripe with Bill, and it’s why I’m almost thrilled the Raiders opted not to retain his services moving forward. Ok, sure, he directed the league’s No. 6 offense this season, and was certainly a prominent part of Derek Carr’s development as a quarterback to this point. Musgrave is, without a doubt, an excellent mentor for a young quarterback entering the league — as Lorscheider pointed out, his resume more than proves as much — and it’s completely understandable why he was brought in when Jack was hired.

With that said, it’s almost ironic that Bill is as good as he is with young QBs, because he himself is very much a static quantity. He does not change, and does not seem particularly interested in evolving or adjusting his philosophy to fit anything outside of what is adequate enough to score more points than the other team. He is, in effect, a quarterback kindergarten teacher.

Case-in-point: In almost all of the Raiders twelve wins this season, they’ve had to mount a comeback or make up varying levels of deficits. It’s very easy to attribute that to Oakland’s turnstile defensive efforts. But it’s worth noting that these deficits were in large part facilitated by stalled offensive production.

Only when the game was on the line did Musgrave seem comfortable opening up the playbook and allowing his uber-talented dearth of offensive playmakers to, well, make plays — and even then, the general understanding seems to be that Carr was afforded a lot of autonomy at the line of scrimmage to change the play as he saw fit.

How many of the best calls of the season were his and how many were Bill’s will probably never be public knowledge, but we can at least give Musgrave credit for having designed an effective system with some creative wrinkles, that he just so happened to be one hundred percent ok with never using if he didn’t have to.

And so, I might suspect this was Del Rio’s plan all along. Having hired and fired Musgrave before, Jack knew exactly what he was getting when he brought him on board. True to form, ol’ Bill adequately fulfilled the duties that were asked and required of him.

It’s no coincidence, if you ask me, that he was only given a two-year deal. In those two seasons, we’ve already seen the peak of what we can get from Musgrave’s offense, and if you’re a true believer like I am, then you know that the real capability of Derek Carr is leaps beyond what we witnessed in 2016.

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