To this day I remember that cold night in January, I was 14 and somewhat still naïve, watching the Oakland Raiders game with my dad, a night I know my brethren also remember as well.
Like a shot to my gut, I saw in astonishment as the referee stripped my team of greatness. I had to tell my dad, “Something about a tuck rule” I said, not fully understanding the rule itself. Yet just like that our season was over, within a few months Jon Gruden was traded away and it marked the end of an era.
Yes, the Raiders made the Super Bowl the following season with an aging roster (something that would derail the team later on) but after their humiliating loss against Tampa Bay, at the hands of Gruden no less, you knew the ceiling had finally collapsed and it would take almost 15 years to return to, not greatness, but relevance. And yes despite what the pundits will say, it’s something worth celebrating.
After losing in the Super Bowl, the following season the team quickly faltered only to then mutiny against Coach Bill Callahan after he called out his team as the “stupidest team in America.” Al Davis was quick to fire him and so began a coaching carousel that would define the team for the next decade and then some.
“We Used To Be a Good Team”
The sports writer’s name escapes me right now, but he said around the time that Al Davis fired another coach, this time Norv Turner, that the Raiders’ slogan should be changed from “Commitment to Excellence” to “We Used to Be a Good Team” and that has always stuck with me for some reason. As much as we, the Fans, love to idolize the maverick that was Al Davis, we will always remember that it was him that actually sabotaged his own team’s performance because of his pride and unwillingness to give up control.
The records speak for themselves but not only that but you can also look at the drafts he had during these years. Drafting players that never lived up to their potential like Robert Gallery, Derrick Gibson, Phillip Buchanon, Michael Huff, and let us not forget Jamarcus Russell. Though he will be remembered as the greatest “bust” of all time I think it also worth noting he had a terrible offensive line and poor coaching. Just imagine Russell behind the current offensive line, and yes, pardon me as I played devil’s advocate there for a minute.
Here Comes Reggie
The hiring of Reggie McKenzie in 2012 marked a turning point as for the first time since 1966 the Raiders were now going to have a new “Boss”. Mark Davis who inherited the franchise from his deceased father relinquished control and McKenzie made his impact known rather quickly, by firing then Coach Hue Jackson and releasing a slew of overpaid and underperforming veterans.
However the return to glory had many setbacks such as the Coaching reign of Dennis Allen and the difficulty of drafting quality players without high draft picks (which were traded away in trades by the previous regime).
Now within the last three seasons, despite not having a playoff appearance until this season, Reggie McKenzie brought in a true “players” coach in Jack Del Rio, which I might add was heavily criticized since the previous coach had been a Broncos defensive coordinator as well, and who can forget the 2014 draft. As the Fox Sports Radio personality Jay Mohr says “The stones on Reggie McKenzie to draft a player from the University of Buffalo with the first pick”, but as we have seen it was a genius move.
Oh and taking Derek Carr with the first pick of the 2nd helped out as well, just a little bit, right? By brilliantly using free agency the last two seasons we have seen everything come together and it feels amazing, the offensive line signings and defensive additions have all for the most part worked out great for Del Rio and this team.
Everywhere I see whether it’s in “real life” or the internet, fans are jubilant and so thrilled to see this team be on top again but like anywhere in life you’ll always have pundits who with their negativity want to bring down folks.
Look I understand this team hasn’t been relevant in more than a decade and with just one playoff appearance we’re all celebrating like we won the Super Bowl. Yet it’s for the reasons I’m trying to explain, our long suffering is what brings out the positivity and sure, it rubs some people the wrong way but what do I say? “Oh well”, I don’t curse or try to pick a fight because there’s no reason for it, in fact, for years Raider fans have had to endure so much nepotism and now it’s our time, deal with it.
We’ve seen the Patriots dynasty be born out of our misery, I mean literally, and the Steelers and Giants have all added Lombardi trophies in that time as well. The future is bright for the Raiders and Raider Nation so I say enjoy it and as always,
Just Win Baby.
“I have never forgiven myself…that I might have made a mistake.”