As the playoffs played in the background, the Oakland Raiders packed their bags, said their goodbyes and began an off-season that started far sooner than they had hoped or expected before star quarterback Derek Carr broke his right leg.
With Carr in a walking boot unable to travel, the Raiders lost the season finale at Denver to fall short of a division title and a first-round bye. Then they were dominated in a 27-14 wild-card loss to Houston on Saturday in their first playoff game in 14 years.
While backups Matt McGloin and Connor Cook struggled to move the offense the last two weeks, Carr could only wonder what the Raiders (12-5) might have been able to accomplish had he not broken his leg late in a victory Dec. 24 against Indianapolis.
“I'm human. Yeah, absolutely. I said, ‘What if?' I said, ‘why?' A lot, in the last two weeks,” Carr said Sunday. “But I can promise you, I've been the same person. It's obviously hurt me. Some days, I've been really down and sad, but it doesn't change who I am. It just hurts, man. It just hurts because I love our team. I love our coaches. I love the fans. I love playing this game.”
Carr gave the Raiders great hope with a spectacular season in which he threw for 3,937 yards and 28 touchdowns. He led seven fourth-quarter comebacks and became an MVP contender by spear-heading a turnaround for a franchise that lost the first 10 games of 2014, Carr's rookie season.
But as much as the disappointment from Carr's injury and the playoff loss left a sour taste for what had been a feel-good season, the Raiders know there is plenty of reason for optimism.
With a young core led by Carr, All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack and Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper, a stout offensive line expected to remain mostly intact, and other key building blocks in place, the future is bright for the Raiders.
Giving Carr even more confidence for 2017 is the attitude after the elimination shown by players upset they didn't do more.
“I'm going to work my tail off to be better next year,” Carr said. “That's the mindset our whole team has, is they came in here today to hear what their coach said they need to do better. When you have a group of guys that won 12 games and they don't care about that, they just want to get better? We're going to be all right.”
As long as Carr is healthy. He said he believed he could have made it back for the Super Bowl had the team gotten that far, adding he will be 100% when the off-season program begins in April.
“We want more,” Coach Jack Del Rio said. “As an organization, our goals are higher. So, that's not going to change. We're not going to pretend that it wasn't really good. You win 12 games, that's hard to do in this league. We won six in a row at one stretch and never really had back-to-back losses prior to yesterday. A lot of really good things were going on and are going on. We want to build on those.”
Steelers assistant coach arrested
Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter has been arrested at a Pittsburgh bar following the team's wild-card win over the Miami Dolphins.
The incident happened just hours after the Steelers defeated the Dolphins, 30-12, in the opening round of the NFL playoffs.
Police say security guards at The Flats on Carson summoned a police officer who was working nearby because of an unruly customer who was allegedly assaulting a doorman. The customer was later identified as Porter.
Police say Porter was taken to Allegheny County Jail. He faces charges including aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, public drunkenness and terroristic threats. The Steelers say they're aware of the incident and are “still gathering information.”
49ers continue GM search
The San Francisco 49ers interviewed Jimmy Raye III, Indianapolis’ vice president of football operations, for the team's vacant general manager job.
CEO Jed York met with Raye as part of his cross-country interview tour to find replacements for fired coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke following a 2-14 season that tied the worst mark in franchise history.
Raye is the son of former 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye II, who held the job in 2009-10. He has spent the past four years with the Colts after a 17-year tenure in San Diego, where he served as director of college scouting and then director of player personnel.
Raye is the fourth candidate to interview for the general manager job in San Francisco, following Minnesota assistant GM George Paton, Green Bay director of football operations Eliot Wolf and Packers director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst.
York said he was open to hiring either the coach or general manager first. He said the primary goal in the search is finding a coach and general manager who can work well together.
York has also interviewed three coaching candidates: New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Buffalo interim coach Anthony Lynn.