Raiders' embarrassing effort sets them up for the No. 1 pick

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Talk about a Day of the Dead debacle.

And talk about setting yourself up for the No. 1 overall draft pick -- midway through the season. Because if you are the Oakland Raiders, and you cannot get up for this game, the final Battle of the Bay against your regional rivals before heading off to Las Vegas in 2020, then who, exactly, are you going to get up for in the season's last eight games?

The Arizona Cardinals? Sure, they seem beatable come Thanksgiving weekend. But they have already swept the San Francisco 49ers, who absolutely embarrassed the Raiders, 34-3 Thursday night at Levi's Stadium.

Embarrassed, that is, if the 1-7 Raiders actually cared. Because by knee-jerk observation of body language, it looked as though they had checked out, playing like a team that could finish 1-15.

Yes, on the same day an interview aired on Fox Sports that saw coach Jon Gruden telling Raiders Hall of Famer Howie Long he is receiving calls from players who are "dying to play for the Raiders" next season.

Perhaps the most damning part of the quote, though?

"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."

Ouch. You think several guys on the current team consider that a shot at them? How do they not? And if they see it as Gruden quitting on them, why not quit on him?

Well, look at this tweet from a 49ers media source:

Frostee Rucker, the Raiders' veteran defensive end who is in his 12th NFL season, admitted he had not seen the interview but insisted pride was still in the locker room.

"No one's packing it in," Rucker said. "Coach hasn't quit. It's not about next year, or the year after that. It's not about that. We're trying to win. It's just not happening right now."

Not with a defense that is historically bad in Oakland.

Through eight games, the Raiders' defense is putting up some of the worst numbers in the franchise's history: The 31.5 points per game allowed is the worst since 1961 and the 8.9 yards per play allowed is the worst ever, as is the 19 passing touchdowns allowed.

And quarterback Derek Carr was sacked seven times by the Niners, or as many total sacks as the Raiders defense has recorded through eight games.

Carr threw 21 passes in the loss and only two went more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, per ESPN Stats & Information. He averaged 5.2 yards on all of his passes, 3.5 air yards on his completions.

Afterward, Carr challenged his teammates.

"Build that trust, see who really wants to be here, who wants to turn things around, who really wants to do the hard things that nobody else wants to do, easy to say, 'Ehh,' I'll go do it somewhere else.' That's easy," Carr said. "I think we figure that out. I think going forward we found out who is a Raider, honestly. I love this place, I'm not going anywhere. I'm in it for the long haul. I want to be here."

Desire is hard to quantify, obviously, but this is not: The Raiders have three first-round draft picks come April and even more needs. But with, as Gruden said, elite pass-rushers being so hard to find (yes, that is sarcasm after the Sept. 1 trade of Khalil Mack) this game might have helped. The Raiders entered the night with a 26.3 percent chance at getting the No. 1 pick, second only to the Cardinals. By losing to the 49ers, who entered the game with a record of 1-7, the Raiders and New York Giants now have the worst record in the league at 1-7. The Raiders might have actually just won the Bosa Bowl.

As in, the right to take former Ohio State pass-rusher Nick Bosa.

Or Mississippi State's Montez Sweat.

Or Oregon's Jalen Jelks.

Or Alabama's Raekwon Davis.

Or Florida State's Brian Burns.

Or Houston's Ed Oliver.

Still, after watching this effort against the Niners, you'd have to wonder how many of them would be "dying" to play for Gruden and the Raiders.

Though that's not a concern at the moment for Gruden, who doubled down on his claim of outside players wanting to play for Oakland, and insisted it should not be taken as a shot at his current players as not being good enough.

"I'm just trying to get people excited about the Oakland Raiders," Gruden said after the game. "The Oakland Raiders is a great organization. I know it's not looking pretty right now. I've heard a lot of negativity over the last six or seven months, and rightfully so.

"But we're going to build a championship football team here. I know a lot of people, as players, as fans, just in general, want to be a part of this."