Raiders head coach Hue Jackson is a gambler by nature. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Hue Jackson is no Marty Schottenheimer or Chuck Knox. As a head coach, the Raiders’ boss isn’t known for playing it safe, analyzing the percentages and doing what everyone else says he should do.
Jackson likes to gamble on the field and off.
He’s prone to calling fake punts and kicks. He likes to go for the jugular when he sees an opportunity, and often it pays off.
This season he brought in linebacker Aaron Curry – who’d been considered a bust in Seattle – then paid a steep price for quarterback Carson Palmer in the belief that Palmer could be the missing piece to the Raiders’ playoff puzzle.
Did he overpay for Palmer? That’s still to be determined. And did some of his decisions Sunday in the 28-27 loss to Detroit help defeat his team?
During games, Jackson calls plays the way he speaks, with boldness and confidence.
Sometimes, however, the gambler craps out.
After Sunday's loss, at least three of Jackson’s calls came under question.
On fourth-and-1 in the first quarter, deep in Detroit territory, Jackson eschewed a field goal attempt in favor of a pass, which fell incomplete.
After Curry returned a fumble for a touchdown to put Oakland up 26-14 with 7:47 left, Jackson decided to kick the extra point instead of going for two points.
And, in the fourth quarter, with just 2:32 remaining and the Lions out of timeouts, the Raiders passed on third-and-3.
As much as the team’s defensive collapse in the fourth quarter kicked away the game, Jackson’s decisions deserve scrutiny, too.
Yet Monday, Jackson was still defending two of his moves to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vittorio Tafur.
On the decision not to go for the field goal, Jackson noted Palmer missed a wide-open Denarius Moore.
“Was the guy wide open or not?” Jackson told Tafur. “If we hit that play, you guys are all saying, ‘Boy, what a great call.’ ”
On the fourth-quarter decision to pass instead of run, Jackson said the pass play was there, but Palmer’s throw went off Chaz Shilens’ hands.
“You run it, you don’t make the first down, you bleed more clock, or do you throw it and you end the game,” Jackson said. “Because you knew the play was there. You knew it was set up. That play was there as the fourth-and-1 call was.”
On not going for two points after Curry’s TD, Jackson admitted he might have made a different choice if he’d been thinking more clearly. Apparently, he was distracted.
“The special teams unit was out there,” he told Tafur. “I was talking to the defensive coaches to get a stop. … That’s where my head was.”
Saturday in Kansas City, the Raiders will roll the dice again, hoping to beat the Chiefs and keep their playoff hopes alive. If there's a chance to gamble, don't expect Jackson to play it safe. It's not in his DNA.