Tony Sparano (2-8) has done a slightly better job this season of coaching the Oakland Raiders than his predecessor, Dennis Allen (0-4). And despite those eight losses (including two epic blowouts), Sparano has received a lot of support from his players. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr was the latest to throw his hat in the Sparano ring, saying he would love it if the interim coach was brought back in 2015.
“Yeah, we love him,” Carr said. “He’s our leader. Absolutely. We love him. Obviously, those decisions are going to happen, and we have no control in that. Those decisions will be made, and whoever is here is who we’ll play for.
“But right now, coach Sparano is my leader. I love him 100 percent. He genuinely cares about me. He’s pulled me into his office just to ask how I’m doing. … Those kind of things from a head coach mean so much.”
Carr’s statement makes sense … to a degree. First, by all accounts, Sparano is a true player’s coach. After the Raiders won their first game of the year, offensive tackle Donald Penn presented Sparano with the game ball in the locker room to the hoots and hollers of his teammates. Running back Latavius Murray, who has not gotten nearly the playing time he deserves, also threw his support behind Sparano this week.
“I think Tony has done a great job, and I think everyone in the locker room loves his approach,” Murray said Monday. “I feel he’s definitely a players’ coach, and we all love playing for him.”
In addition, Carr had two head coaches in his rookie season and faces the likelihood of playing under a third next year. With a new head coach likely comes a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive philosophy, which would require Carr to learn a new scheme with new terminology. While Carr has shown himself to be an intelligent football player fully capable of such a task, it’s still a daunting. Especially considering the fact that Carr will likely also be trying to build chemistry with new receivers (upgrading their receiving group should be one of the team’s first missions this offseason).
Perhaps the most important duty of a head coach is to get his team ready to play each week. Much like Allen before him, Sparano has failed at this. Players say they want to play for him, but their performance on the field often tells a different tale. In St. Louis and against the Chiefs, the Raiders came out flat and clearly not ready to compete. If the Raiders have this much of a problem staying focused after winning only two games, it simply does not bode well for their chances in 2015 under this head coach. Maybe if this team had more talent and was a playoff-ready team like the San Francisco 49ers, keeping an interim guy who the players seem to like would make sense. But the Raiders are still a very long way from being competitive, and Sparano hasn’t shown enough to indicate that he’s the right person to steer the team in that direction.