The Giants, 49ers and Raiders headed into Week 9 with one win apiece. Of that group, San Francisco was the favorite to earn the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Those odds will change thanks to former undrafted free agent and practice squad quarterback Nick Mullens thrashing the Raiders on Thursday night.
When it was over, Mullens, making his first NFL start, completed 17 of 22 (72.7 percent) pass attempts for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers. The 49ers scored 34 unanswered points and cruised to a 34-3 win — just their second of the season — while the Raiders appeared to be going through the motions at half speed. For some perspective, things were so far gone that Derek Carr gave way to AJ McCarron with more than 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Afterwards, first-year coach Jon Gruden, who spent much of the evening in a locked-jaw grimace, was asked about his team’s effort in the the blowout loss.
“I’m not going to say anything about the effort,” Gruden said, via the East Bay Times‘ Matt Schneidman. “I know there were some big plays and I thought the guys fought until the end. Offensively, I know we were depleted up front, had some guys playing out of position. Defensively, I thought they hung in there under some dire situations late in the game, but I’ll take a look at the tape.”
Gruden mentioned injuries to the offensive line throwing the offense out of sync — Derek Carr was sacked seven times on the evening — but that doesn’t explain the Mullens-led 49ers owning the Raiders’ defense all night. The low point had to be Raheem Mostert’s 52-yard touchdown jaunt. The lack of urgency from Oakland’s defenders was alarming — to the point that we were left wondering if this team had already given up on a season that’s lost at the midway point.
“No one is packing it in,” said defensive lineman Frostee Rucker. “Coach hasn’t quit. It’s not about next year. It’s not about that. We’re trying to win. It’s just not happening now.”
Tight end Jared Cook, one of the few bright spots this season, added: “I never quit. I never gave up. It’s a frustrating thing to be sitting on the record you have, be going through some of the things we’re going through as an offense and still not being able to put points on the board. It’s definitely frustrating because we know the talent we have in this room is way better than that and way better than what we portray on the field.”
And Carr, whose future with the Raiders remains a mystery — is he Gruden’s guy or will the coach look to draft a quarterback he can mold as he sees fit? — wonders “who’s going to want to continue to show up? Who’s going to continue to fight?”
“Because those are the kind of men you want on the team when it starts going well,” the quarterback said, via ESPN.com. “Those are the kind of guys that when coach isn’t around or one of our leaders, everyone in the locker room, the conversations they’re having, they’re only building us forward. Because the ones that pull you away, you don’t want any of those guys.”
Gruden, now 1-7, maintains that players from other teams really want to play for the Raiders.
“I get a lot of phone calls from people that are dying to come play here. I’m just telling you. They’re dying to play for the Raiders,” Gruden told former Raiders great and Hall of Famer Howie Long, who is now an analyst at Fox Sports. “And to have salary-cap space and to have a chance to talk to the people that you really want to wear the silver and black, the guys you really want to wear the silver and black and represent this team, that’s exciting.”
The Raiders have three first-round picks in 2019 — in our recent mock draft we have them taking pass rusher Josh Allen, cornerback Deandre Baker and wide receiver A.J. Brown — and the only thing left to decide is if they’ll outpace the woeful New York Giants for the the top selection in the NFL Draft.
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