Raiders Vault: The Short But Memorable Career of Michael Crabtree

In the 2015 offseason, the Raiders added veteran wide receiver, Michael Crabtree. Signed to just a one-year deal for $3.2 million, the wideout outplayed that contract and then some. 

A forgotten star…

Entering the 2015 offseason, it was clear the Raiders needed to add talent at wide receiver. To remedy this, they added 49ers castoff Michael Crabtree and drafted Amari Cooper. Crabtree, a college football legend, was a forgotten man in San Francisco. Coming off of a 2014 season where he recorded just 698 yards despite starting all 16 games, the signing barely registered in most NFL circles. As such, he was given a one-year prove-it deal for just over three million dollars. The goal to pair Crabtree with the young Cooper instantly proved genius.

Renaissance year in Oakland

In the 2015 season, the Raiders finally gave the die-hard Oakland fans some hope. At the forefront of this, was their revamped offense. Crabtree proved his worth quickly in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens. In the nail-biting win, “Crab” recorded nine catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Five games later in Week 7, Crabtree would break out again. This time with seven catches for 102 yards and a score against the New York Jets. The Raiders, sitting at 4-3, took this momentum into a Week 8 bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In this shootout, Crabtree posted another seven catches for 108 more yards and two more touchdowns. This gave the newly added wideout four scores in the team’s last three games.

The second score tied the game for the Raiders. Although they would eventually lose this game, Crabtree’s performance cemented him as the go-to guy in clutch situations for second-year quarterback Derek Carr.

This role would continue to be cultivated throughout the season and was put on full display against the Chargers. In a Christmas Eve edition of Thursday Night Football, the Raiders took San Diego down to the wire. Following a big fumble return from Benson Mayowa, the offense looked to strike. As became the norm, Crabtree was the target on a fade route in the corner. The score would send the game to overtime and an eventual Raiders win in a dramatic fashion. Crabtree would finish the ’15 season with 85 catches, 922 yards, and nine touchdowns. Perhaps more importantly, he once again earned the respect of the NFL.

The magical 2016 season

After being rewarded with a four-year, $35 million contract extension in the midst of the 2015 season, Crabtree was back in Oakland for the 2016 season. After finishing 7-9 in 2015, the Raiders offense got off to a dramatic start in the new season. Starting in New Orleans, the two offenses battled throughout the game with Crabtree chipping in seven catches for 87 yards for the Silver and Black. However, after a touchdown from Seth Roberts that put the Raiders down by one, the Raiders called Crabtree’s number for the game-winning two-point conversion.

This play not only set the pace for one of Crabtree’s best seasons, but it also set the bar for the Raiders as a whole. ’15’ would get his first touchdown of the season the next week and follow that up with his first 100-yard game. The best game of Crabtree’s season came in Week 4 against the Ravens, however. In this game, he recorded seven catches 88 yards, and three touchdowns. The third of these scores being yet another game-winner. ‘Crab’ would go over 100 yards two more times on the season and finish with 89 catches for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns. This season marked the first time the Raiders had two 1,000-yard receivers since the days of Tim Brown and Jerry Rice as Cooper accomplished the feat as well.

Despite returning to the playoffs and having one of the best years of his career, Crabtree’s 2016 season is more often remembered for his rivalry with the Bronco’s Aquib Talib. In the Week 17 contest between the Broncos and Raiders, Talib ripped the receiver’s signature chain off of his neck and ran away. This, as NFL fans know, would not be the end of the relationship between the two.

Unanswered expectations

After a 12-4 season where they made the playoffs, the Raiders would enter 2017 with Super Bowl aspirations. However, despite the success of the offense in 2016, the group was led by a new offensive coordinator in Todd Downing. Regardless, the Oakland offense got off to a roaring start that included a blowout of the Jets in Week 2. Crabtree would be the catalyst for this high-scoring performance with yet another three-touchdown game.

After losing four straight games, the Raiders entered Thursday Night Football at 2-4. Facing the rival Chiefs, the Raiders offense was engaged in a shoot-out to try and save their season. After a Hail Mary landed on the one-yard line, Carr looked to Crabtree once again to win them the game. Of course, the veteran came through with another game-winning play.

Stunningly, this would be the peak of the Raiders offense in 2017 as Downing’s system never seemed to click. Crabtree would finish with just 618 yards and eight touchdowns while the team finished a lackluster 7-9. Alas, Crabtree would make headlines once again when he and Talib squared off in Week 11. Tensions would reach a boiling point as punches were thrown and both teams stormed the field in a wild scene. Sadly, this would be the most memorable moment of the Raiders 2017 season.

A pleasant surprise

After passing on Crabtree in the 2009 NFL draft, the Raiders righted that wrong by taking a flier on the wideout in 2015. As most of the league called him washed up, he rewarded the Raiders with several exciting years as one of the better wideouts in the league. For Carr, he has not had a wide receiver that he trusts as much since. Achieving this connection again has been tried many times since to no avail. While he is by no means an NFL legend, it is more than fair to call him a Raiders legend who supplied fans with many exciting moments during some of the team’s most exciting seasons. Michel Crabtree will always be a fan favorite amongst Raider Nation.

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*Top Photo: Amy Sanderson/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

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