What does a football coach do after suffering one of his most crushing defeats?
Look for the nearest exit?
Look for excuses?
Look in the mirror?
Art Shell looks at game film.
Shell was in agony when he left the Coliseum on Sunday, wondering how in the world his team had blown a 13-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes to play after having dominated the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns won, 19-16, when running back Eric Metcalf scored from the one-yard line with two seconds remaining.
So Shell sat down Sunday night and watched the game film, over and over, grading his players’ performances.
Then, he watched it again Monday morning.
It’s not that the Raider coach is a masochist. He’s a pragmatist. Give him some practical reasons for his team’s collapse and he can deal with that.
“Until you watch the film, you are worrying about what happened, what you could have done,” he said. “Once you see the film, most of it is very, very correctable. Then you don’t feel so bad. You’ve just got to go to work and correct those things. And we’ll do that. We’ll respond from (Sunday’s) loss in a positive way. . . . It left a bitter taste in our mouths and it’s something we don’t want to experience again.”
Everybody reacts differently to devastating defeats. Shell is able to deal with it on a mental level, repairing the damage by planning new strategic moves, but veteran defensive lineman Howie Long needs to deal with it on a physical level.
“I’m not a shrink kind of guy,” Long said. “I don’t want a guy telling me everything is going to be OK. I need to go back to work.
“We had our foot on their throats. We should have choked them.”
When all the game film had been viewed and all the emotion spent, it still came down to two players, Metcalf and Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler.
If the Raiders had kept the ball out of both of their hands at the end, they might have won.
Hostetler reinvigorated the Raider offense in the team’s first two games with a varied passing attack and the right touch of mobility.
He was at it again in the first quarter Sunday, finding four receivers in an 80-yard touchdown drive.
But Hostetler also suffered the first of several damaging hits that left him limping by day’s end from an injured left knee and right ankle.
He wasn’t the same, the best indication being that he didn’t gain a single yard rushing Sunday after having gained 55 in the first two games.
Shell put in backup Vince Evans for one play on the opening drive when Hostetler was hurt, and the Evans, 38, responded with a 26-yard pass to Alexander Wright.
Evans filled in on one other first-half play when Hostetler was again injured, then started the second half while Hostetler was undergoing medical tests. Evans completed the only other pass he attempted.
But when Hostetler came back out, Shell put him back in.
“Jeff is awfully tough to keep out of the doggone lineup if he can move at all,” Shell said. “He wants to get back in there. You think he’s down, but he’s never out. I was prepared to go with Vince. That crossed my mind. But Jeff said he could go.”
But not as effectively as he had in the past. The Raiders gained only another 76 yards all afternoon after that first drive. After completing 68.3% of his passes--41 of 60--in the first two games, Hostetler dropped to 44% Sunday, completing 11 of 25.
After getting 10 first downs in the first half Sunday, the Raiders got only one after intermission, that on a penalty.
One more first down at the end would have probably clinched the victory for them. Would Evans have gotten it? He might have been worth a try.
The Raiders didn’t need any advice about keeping the ball out of Metcalf’s hands. They remembered all too well the four touchdowns he scored last season to beat them.
And indeed, Metcalf wound up with minus-two yards rushing.
But when the Raiders’ Jeff Gossett punted in the last two minutes after having deliberately taken a safety to get some breathing room, he kicked the ball to Metcalf.
And he paid the price when Metcalf returned it 37 yards to set up the final score. That kept Shell up into the night, painfully watching his game films.