Two years ago, the Oakland Raiders were full of optimism. Despite a first round exit in the playoffs, they were coming off a 12-4 season. Just as important, they thought they had identified a young, franchise quarterback in Derek Carr.
If you look throughout the Raiders history, this hasn’t happened as much as some might think. In the Raiders more successful years, the few there has been, it’s been success by taking a quarterback given up on. Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls. Rich Gannon won a league MVP and the Raiders were making the playoffs regularly. But, in today’s NFL, you can’t win that way. The older successful quarterbacks aren’t “off the scrap heap” quarterbacks. They are the Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees’ of the world.
It didn’t take long for the optimism to die in Oakland. Derek Carr got hurt before the playoffs and the aforementioned first round exit came at the hands of playing Connor Cook. Most teams would’ve came back intact, poised to make another run but not Oakland. The organization didn’t renew Offensive Coordinator, Bill Musgrave’s, contract. Carr and Musgrave had guided the Raiders to a top ten offense. Instead, the Raiders promoted quarterbacks coach, Todd Downing.
What has been typical of recent Raiders history, one bad decision turns into several. Carr and Downing never developed any chemistry and it showed. The Raiders would go from 12-4 to 6-10. Carr’s numbers would drop in almost every important category. This would cost Jack Del Rio his job and rightfully so, if he was behind letting Musgrave go.
But running an NFL team is like life in this way. Everyone makes mistakes. The difference is how they respond. Unfortunately for Oakland, their response was making more mistakes.
In walked Jon Gruden armed with a 10 year deal and control. The deal completely undermines GM Reggie McKenzie who guided the Raiders out of Salary Cap Purgatory with a long term strategic plan. What has ensued since then should worry every Raider fan.
Gruden immediately made the team older. It’s obvious he didn’t learn from his time in Tampa where he won a Super Bowl with a team constructed by someone else and got fired with a roster of his own doing. He trades holdout Khalil Mack as if getting all-pro pass rushers grow on trees. And he followed it up with an Al Davis-esque asinine comment … “We weren’t very good last year on defense with Khalil Mack”.
You would think a man armed with a ten year deal would take an all-pro pass rusher and build a defense around him. Instead Gruden chose to act like Davis (how ironic) and make a trade that has been proven to be a mistake. Somehow, someway the Bears have made it work with Mack but Gruden couldn’t. Ask yourself the question, what good organization trades an all-pro in the hopes of getting an all-pro? Gruden wants to move on from the trade, he won’t be able to unless the Raiders because extremely successful…. soon.
And, as if that isn’t bad enough, Carr has been throwing game crippling interceptions and is well on his way to throwing the most interceptions in the his career.
Just two years ago, Oakland had hope. They had a plan in place and an environment that made the organization attractive.
Now the only plan in place is the move to Vegas. A move that probably won’t include McKenzie. They are rolling the dice that Gruden is the answer. That seems appropriate for the city where they’re heading. The only problem is, odds show that the number most likely to come out is seven. Something Raider fans have gotten all too used to.