But wait, there’s even more. Because while the Raiders and Bucs certainly have their history, with Jon Gruden playing a big part, that’s not the only rivalry resurrecting in Allegiant Stadium. Because Tampa Bay’s shiny new quarterback, and arguably the best NFL player, has a past worth discussing.
Back on January 19th, 2001, the Oakland Raiders traveled to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots in the playoffs. Who was Oakland’s head coach? Jon Gruden. New England’s starting quarterback? A scrappy second-year sixth-round pick named Tom Brady, filling in adequately for an injured Drew Bledsoe. In a miserably snowy affair, the Raiders had managed to score 13 points. Moreover, they were leading the Patriots with about two minutes remaining. Then, Brady slowly but surely moved the team down the field, but on a surprise blitz from star corner, Charles Woodson, he was sacked, and fumble the ball. The Raiders recovered, and it looked like they were on their way to the AFC Championship.
It was a fumble
Only… it wasn’t a fumble,Â at least not according to the refs. The officials should have ruled it a fumble, not incomplete. The Patriots kept the ball and Adam Vinatieri made an iconic kick in the snow, sending the game to overtime. The Raiders lost, and weeks later, they sent Gruden to Tampa.
Would the Raiders have traded Gruden if they had won? Would the Raiders have a fourth Super Bowl? Even better, would the legend of Tom Brady have persisted if he’d faded in his first big test? I can’t speak for the rest of Raider Nation, but I’ve lost sleep over these questions.
Allegiant Stadium will attest to the first matchup between Brady and Gruden since the latter returned to coaching. Almost 20 years, six Super Bowls, a Uggs sponsorship, and a bust in Canton later, Tom Brady comes face to face with Gruden’s Raiders once again. ‘Chucky’ isn’t the only one to head into the game with an incentive to win.
Could the ‘cover boy’ have joined the Raiders?
Derek Carr is no stranger to criticism or rumors. Since Gruden returned to the Raiders, every media outlet under the sun has talked about the quarterback’s potential replacement. He’s heard everyone from Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert to Philip Rivers and Jameis Winston, and the minute the Raiders signed Marcus Mariota, legions of fans decided he was the guy. Nevertheless, out of all the possible replacements, nobody picked up the buzz like Brady did.
When Brady decided to leave New England after nearly two decades with the team, his free agency was watercooler gossip, even as we were quarantined. A snapshot of Brady with team owner Mark Davis at a UFC fight in Las Vegas sent people over the top. Brady looked at property in New England, so he was going to be a Raider. UFC president Dana White asked Brady about Sin City, so he was going to be a Raider. Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, and they were about to be home to the league’s biggest star.