When the season began no one knew what to expect other than fireworks of some kind. There were some hints of the coming storm, but nothing that suggested this scorched earth policy throughout the season.
In some ways, for all of the media fanfare, there is nothing else that can be written about the Oakland Raiders 2018 season. This painful truth places many reporters, beat writers, and even bloggers in the grotesque cycle of struggling to avoid replicating the same things being written all over the internet at the same time.
Part of this maelstrom of suck and frustration is that prior to the Mack trade there was legitimate potential. Maybe not the “Super Bowl bound” confidence of the 2016 team, but certainly more than one-win-in-half-a-season-against-the-first-coach-to-be-fired reality. Some pundits speculated that embattled quarterback Derek Carr would be a dark horse MVP candidate, Khalil Mack a potential front-runner, and the defense was going to be at least average. Not only has none of those things come true but they also look comical in retrospect for more reasons than just the trade. The touch and go effort levels on defense partnered with confusing (read: tank-worthy) play calls and constant roster churn have created an impossible environment to perform consistently. Writers and prognosticators can only expect dispirited performances and their faith is typically rewarded. The on-field product is just one part of the equation as the locker room leaks serve as another.
Between the cheap shot swipes from understandably frustrated veterans and the pot shots taken by beat guys and national media, the market has been flooded. The easy story now is: “come see what ridiculously specific stat I pulled for the lowly Raiders.” Again the Raiders have been bad, but how many more of “these players have more sacks than the Raiders” Tweets need to be liked to get the message across. Media members will tell you they’re doing their job, and they are, but if this is all there is then consider the dead horse beaten.
As for the increase in mud-flinging as players “escape”, there are only two players whose voices legitimately mattered and neither have spoken up (yet). Even then it isn’t strange for employees leaving a bad situation to give poor reviews, and fans have to swallow that horse pill even as stories pour out long after this season ends. That’s another thing, this isn’t going away.
The stench of this season, no matter how it finishes, will follow Mark Davis, Jon Gruden, and Carr for the rest of their careers.
Writers and bloggers will default to this season unless this triumvirate makes a legitimate run at the Super Bowl (and wins). In what will be one of the worst seasons in team history, there can be no revisionist history at play here. It has gotten so bad that at times the beats, bloggers, and casual fans regularly end up at odds over trivial social media posts that 31 other fan (and writer) bases wouldn’t even flinch at. Yet one Ryan Switzer tweet can spark hundreds of debaters with their pitchforks and torches raised but uncertain whom to tar and feather.
This is the season from hell, and the rapture will have to wait until at least next season. The fear is that next season won’t be much better even if Gruden hits on all three of his first round picks. Even an optimist has to wonder if three premium picks is enough considering Gruden (and the Raiders’) draft luck and history. It’s understandable for writers at all levels to be despondent when considering how bleak the future looks. Yet even amid the many justifiable concerns, it is also fair to allow fans and writers to hope for something more than the worst season imaginable.
The fuel that once fed the raging tire fire of coverage on the Silver and Black is fading quickly. With (maybe) one remaining lame duck season in the Bay Area, many of these constantly replicated stories will be rendered obsolete as the team fades back into obscurity. In the end, that may be what the entire team would prefer at this point. A chance to rebuild away from the limelight and without all of the pressure of climbing out of the worst hole in team history.