ALAMEDA – The Raiders are currently in position for a top 5 NFL draft pick. Starting the season 1-5 will set that up, though the win percentage must stay low all season to secure it.
That is not by design. Head coach Jon Gruden said so directly and with force during a Tuesday press conference following a 27-3 loss to Seattle in London.
That result was the second straight blowout. The L.A. Chargers and then Seahawks dismantled a Raiders seemingly worse as the season's worn on.
The Raiders face three straight teams after the bye with equal 1-5 records, but there's no guarantee the Silver and Black can beat any of them. After that Seahawks performance, everything is on the table.
Just because the Raiders might lose doesn't mean they want to. The topic came seemingly out of the blue, after Gruden was asked about his message to players heading into their bye week.
"I'll say this, we aren't tanking anything," Gruden said. "I hear the hatred out there, some of the rumors that we are tanking it to get a first round pick or a higher pick.
"We are not getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning to tank it. Ain't nobody tanking it. I don't know who wrote that or who said that or who thinks that, but that isn't the case here."
"We are going to continue to work hard, continue to build our team and that was part of the message."
"Tank" is both a literal and figurative four-letter word for coaches and teams, though the practice occurs in professional sports, most notably in the modern NBA and MLB.
The 2018 Raiders are obviously worse after trading Khalil Mack's rights just before the regular season. Gruden is playing rookies especially at a heavy clip, though veteran free agents signed this offseason haven't panned out so well. There are reports of Amari Cooper sitting on the trading block, though no actions have been taken in that regard.
Injuries have hindered an already thin depth chart, especially along the offensive line. Donald Penn is on injured reserve, Kelechi Osemele has missed two games and Kolton Miller's playing through a difficult injury.
"We are going to do everything we can on the practice field to improve but it helps when you have healthy bodies," Gruden said. "It helps when you have healthy lineman, certainly. We will try to get them healthy so we can do that."