The Las Vegas Raiders, the late Al Davis’s beloved franchise used to be the most iconic brand in sports, but since their return to Oakland in 1995, they have enjoyed only four winning seasons.
None of today’s active players, save for the league elders, remember when the Raiders were good. With one winning season in 17 years, it’s impossible to recognize the “Commitment to Excellence” and “Just Win Baby” mantra Davis created.
At the same time as we endure virtual team visits and anxiously await the NFL Draft, myself and a few guest writers are tackling this question, in a roundtable forum.
Raiders Blog: Winning has been evasive for a while…
The Raiders had winning seasons seven out of the 13 years they were located in Los Angeles. The franchise’s last Super Bowl win occurred in 1983. In the 22 years before, they won 195 games, lost 113 games, and tied 11. They also made the playoffs 11 times, advanced to the championship round nine times and played in the Super Bowl three times.
Fast forward to today. Perpetual losing has transformed the famed Silver and Black into an elephant graveyard where careers go to die. The late Davis, god rest his soul, is no longer with us after finally being called to the great gridiron in the sky on October 8, 2011. In his place, his son Mark is running the team. The Raiders have exited the city of Oakland for the second time now and presumably for good this time. Yet, they just can’t seem to shake the stench of losing. Much like the Browns, the Raiders have been bad so long it seems they’re not trying to get it right.
Making matters worse, the Raiders are apparently short on cash, and made the move to fabulous Las Vegas without the cash to play. In today’s NFL, where cash is king and revenue sharing pays player salaries, it’s very puzzling how they continue to be revenue starved. A once proud fanbase has fractured into factions, constantly in-fighting while arming themselves with statistics to misuse for their own purposes.
Talent evaluations have also been sketchy at best. Meanwhile, there have been 11 coaching changes and 10 head coaches coming through the doors of team headquarters in Alameda since 1995. The Raiders haven’t secured second contracts to any former first round draft picks in what feels like forever. The franchise leader in passing is an abysmal (39-55) and verticality has been absent from the offense for three years, despite numerous promises to open it up and let it rip.
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Stop clinging and let go…
The Raiders mystique is long gone and that’s fine. We can’t hang on to old memories. Those Raiders teams were dominating; they instilled fear in the soul of their opponents on the field and had an outlaw personality out of it. That was perfect on their way to three Super Bowl wins. However, that was then. The rules have changed and so has our culture. That team would not be feasible even if they were still winning, which was part of their aura, but not everything. Those hits of old have no place in the NFL anymore, players would be under constant scrutiny because of social media. That kind of lifestyle isn’t viable nowadays.
The Raiders should not try to recreate that mystique and can’t afford to be stuck on the past and hang on to a trio of old trophies. They’re archaic and the Silver and Black must focus on creating a new identity, one that aligns with today’s current values and fan base. It’s great to remember the the past fondly and memories should never be discarded. I’m sure they don’t want their past to hinder their vision in the future and be remembered as the team that peaked in the 1970s and 1980s. 40 years ago.
Factions are dividing a once proud fan base…
I would say the Raiders fanbase is a bit of a microcosm of who the organization has been for the last 20 years. Raider Nation are the loyal children of Al Davis, a man who demanded his own brand of loyalty, individuality, and ruthlessness. These traits are projected by fans since the days the league maverick was just a coach. The “die hard” mentality engenders groups like “Carr stans” and/or the relentless Derek Carr Critics from within the fan base birthed from the universally high expectations of “pride and poise” and “commitments to excellence.”
It all boils down to the fanbase wanting the one thing the team hasn’t done in a while: “Just Win Baby.” Amid that backdrop, the Raiders have also had to deal with the death of the ultimate Raiders figure.
At that moment, the Raiders found themselves at a crossroads. Facing rapid maturation or immediate decline, the latter unfortunately festered until 2016, when for the first time in 15 seasons, the Silver and Black returned to the playoffs.
Before Raiders fans could even brag and strut, disaster crushed all hope when Carr broke his leg. The ultimate gut check to a franchise trying to prove that it had grown up. It’s why fans feel so strong one way or the other. With number four, he either represents the child who is convinced that dad is still coming home, or the child telling their sibling to stop crying and be strong. Both are accurate, but neither are really correct. The Raiders are still growing out of Al’s shadow, the new stadium is a big step, but they still have a long way to grow.
There’s no congruency…
By not being true to what’s been said and defined as one, the Raiders mystique will continue to fade away into darkness.
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