It’s hard to believe that Tony Sparano will be anything more than an interim head coach.
Since taking over the 0-4 Raiders, they’ve become the 0-9 Raiders. And, oddsmakers make them a 9-point underdog for Sunday’s game at the 5-4 San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders no doubt will want to bring in a big name or whoever the hottest assistant of the moment might be when this season concludes.
Yet Sparano does seem to have infused this team with more spirit since he took over the team. They’ve played hard and come close to upsets in games against the Chargers and Seahawks.
Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr, in fact, told reporters that going to work every day doesn’t feel like going to work for a losing team.
“The energy level is, honestly, like we’re 9-0,” he said. “Guys run around and are still striving to do whatever they can to make things right. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. It’s going to happen one of these days, and I’ll be excited to be a part of it.”
Whether it happens Sunday against the Chargers is up for debate, however.
The Chargers have lost three straight, but San Diego is expected to get back top running back Ryan Mathews – who’s missed six games with a knee injury. Plus, linebackers Manti Te’o and Melvin Ingram also are expcted to be available Sunday. So the Chargers should be at better strength than they were when they held on to beat Oakland 31-28 on Oct. 12.
Plus, the Chargers offense should overmatch the Raiders defense. Quarterback Philip Rivers leads the 11th-best passing offense in the NFL, and he can put up big numbers fast.
He’s coming off his worst game of the season in a 37-0 loss to the Dolphins and will want to get back on track against an Oakland secondary that can’t keep its top players healthy. In the first meeting between the teams, Rivers had a quarterback rating of 123.8, throwing for 313 yards and three TDs without an interception.
Cornebacks Carlos Rogers, TJ Carrie, D.J. Hayden and Chimdi Chekwa all are dealing with injuries.
Still, Sparano is proud that the Raiders continue to play hard for him – even as the only winless team in the league.
“I really love that group of guys in the locker room,” Sparano said this week. “They do a heck of a job.”