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5 Things the Raider Nation need to realize.
- Ryan Smith vs. The Readers.
A mini-shoot rant about how opinions work, the crap-shoot that is NFL scouting, Randy Moss, Christian Hackenberg, the Carolina Panthers, and Tom Brady.
Because it's a necessity these days.
This is an opinion piece.
I'm merely stating my opinions.
I am entitled to mine and you are entitled to yours.
If you disagree, feel free to step up and debate with me.
However, don't bother if you're going to take things personally and rant nonsensically.
If you don't bring logic to the conversation, I'm not going to respond.
I'm a Raiders fan.
I've suffered as you've suffered.
I've gotten excited for lost season after lost season over and over again.
I am ready to "Just Win, Baby".
But... I'm also not spoiled enough to think that I'm entitled to something.
I don't believe that whining will make the Raiders better any sooner.
And I'm tired of seeing it.
For a fan base that's got a reputation as being one of the toughest and most passionate in all of sports... I see a lot of whining.
Here are five things that I think are obvious, but that most Raider fans need to realize.
1. The 8-8 seasons weren't all that great.
"Well we were 8-8 before Reggie McKenzie came in and ruined everything"
"We got rid of all of our best players!"
"We were a season away from the playoffs"
I'm really tired of this.
I understand that the Raider Nation loves to live in the past. Hell, when you're rooting for a team with a history like the Raiders, it's hard not to.
It's impossible to tell the story of the NFL without mentioning the Raiders multiple times.
Five Super Bowl appearances, with three wins, 24 members of the Hall of Fame have worn the Silver and Black, and boy, have they had their fair share of historical moments.
Ghost to the post?
Sea of Hands?
It goes on and on.
The Raiders have had an incredibly history.
I could get behind talking about those moments.
But the 2010 and 2011 seasons?
Why would you want to reminisce over those seasons?
Sure, the Raiders won eight games in both of those seasons, their highest total since they went 11-5 in 2002, but were they really all that good?
Sure, their stats weren't bad.
In 2010, they had a top ten offense, and the eleventh ranked defense.
McFadden had 1,000 yards rushing, and even when he went down, Michael Bush stepped up and had almost 700 yards.
They didn't even have a shadow of a passing game.
Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski were mediocre at best, and they were never good enough to pull of the bigger plays.
And for all those wins?
Well, they swept the division, beat Seattle and St. Louis... and that was about it.
And as impressive as that may sound in 2015, let me remind you what the AFC and NFC west were like in 2010.
The Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to win the division with a losing record, and the Rams played in the same division so...
As for the AFC West, the Broncos were only 4-12, and far removed from the juggernaut that they are now. The Chargers did manage a winning record, but they didn't have a single 1,000 yard rusher or receiver. And as for Kansas City?
Their starting quarterback?
Was Matt Cassel.
So... You sweep a division where the winner was only 10-6 and it's not you?...
Is that really so great?
But you know what, it was progress.
It was a step in the right direction.
2011 is the season everyone pines over.
At points, they looked downright explosive, and it doesn't take a genius to see that new Head Coach, Hue Jackson, was the catalyst.
Many fans point to this season and remember the following.
Darren McFadden was averaging nearly 6 yards per carry before he got hurt.
Explosive plays to guys like Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Coming impossibly close to winning the division at 9-7 and making the playoffs.
Here's what I remember.
Setting the record for most penalties and penalty yardage in a single season.
A defense that gave up over 4,000 yards through the air and over 2,000 on the ground.
Tim Tebow beating the Raiders by himself.
Carson Palmer throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.
34-14 at Miami.
46-16 at Green Bay.
Choking against the Chargers in week 17.
Sending two first round picks for a 31 year old quarterback.
Drafting zero impact skill players.
Romanticize the past all you want, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
The Raiders struggled to 8-8 in a division where 8-8 meant you made the playoffs.
The Raiders struggled to 8-8 in a division where the Chargers were a dumpster fire, the Chiefs tried to make Matt Cassel a franchise quarterback, and the Broncos were starting Tim Tebow.
And hey, of those eight games that they won?
The only team with a winning record at the end of the year was Houston.
And that's only because 2011 was the year Peyton was out.
Raiders fans constantly pine for these seasons and I don't understand why.
Sure, their record was decent, but... They were never really good.
They mortgaged the next two drafts on a 31 year old quarterback, and traded for ineffective busts like Aaron Curry. Guys like Stanford Routt, Michael Huff, and Tommy Kelly took up massive amounts of cap space without actually contributing to the offense.
Do you honestly believe that if Hue and company had stayed, they would've stood a chance against the Broncos team with Peyton Manning?
Remember, without any draft picks or cap, they wouldn't have improved. They would've stayed the same or gotten worse when they couldn't afford to keep players.
That leads me to my next point.
2. This is the best the Raiders have been in 13 years.
Get at me, bro.
Let me make a small point.
If you combine the stats of all the quarterbacks who played for the Raiders from 2010/2011 to 2011/2012?
It comes out to 7,581 yards, 60 TDs, and 30 INTs.
We're talking about Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, Kyle Boller, and even Shane Lechler.
If you decided to average that, we're talking about 3,790 yards, 30 TDs, and 15 interceptions.
Derek Carr, you know, the only QB who has started for Oakland since he was drafted in 2014?
He's on pace for 4,334 yards, 35 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.
In case you're curious, that would set a franchise record for most touchdown passes by a Raider quarterback in franchise history, and the second most passing yards.
Daryle Lamonica, the Raider legend who threw 34 touchdowns back in 1969? Also threw 25 interceptions.
This is without mentioning that he basically missed the first game of the season...
And is in only his sophomore year... one that is historically tough on quarterbacks.
Latavius Murray, for all his failures, is currently leading the AFC in rushing. Yup. Only Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Jonathan Stewart have rushed for more yards this year, and none of them share snaps with a passing offense like the one in Oakland.
And the receivers?
Michael Crabtree is on pace for 88 yards, 1,013 yards, and 9 touchdowns.
Rookie, I repeat, rookie Amari Cooper is on pace for 83 catches, 1,227 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
Two receivers on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving?
That's pretty great, especially since they haven't had one since Randy Moss in 2005.
They weren't even close in 2010 and 2011.
They've got an excellent center in Rodney Hudson, an absolute stud guard in Gabe Jackson, and between Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford? A pair of talented young tight ends.
This is without mentioning the contributions of young players like Seth Roberts or H-back, Jamize Olawale.
The Raiders offense is far from complete, but this is a young, motivated, and extremely talented team.
And then on defense?
Khalil Mack is a stud. He's a generational talent that could be the face of this defense for the next ten years. An unheralded free agent acquisition, Dan Williams is having a great year and is considered one of the best defensive tackles in football. And you know what? Rookie Mario Edwards Jr. has been exceptional filling in for Justin Tuck this year. Aldon Smith will likely return to the Raiders next year, and while the linebacking corps and secondary needs a little help, there is a skeleton of an incredible pass rush in the works.
This is the part where I piss people off.
This is the part where I make excuses.
Suspend your disbelief for a second.
Let's play make believe.
Let's say... Seabass doesn't miss that kick against the Bears.
Let's say... Seth Roberts finishes his route against the Broncos.
Let's say... T.J. Carrie tackles Antonio Brown late against the Steelers.
Let's say... Adrian Peterson gets stuffed on the line instead of breaking off on a huge TD run.
The Raiders could hypothetically have that elusive ninth win already.
I know that's stupid...
But not as stupid as hankering for a season where you set the record for penalties and barely managed to win 8 games in a division that was won by Tim Tebow.
3. Reggie McKenzie knows more about football than you do.
Let me list of a few names.
Really fun stuff.
Those are the first round picks of a regime that Raider fans still pine for.
As amazing as Al Davis was in his prime, the last few years were atrocious. The game had passed him by, and he made the Raiders one of the biggest laughing stocks in football. And those were just draft picks, free agency was just as bad.
I mean... Remember when Javon Walker was supposed to be the number one target for JaMarcus Russell?...
Reggie McKenzie's style is extremely different from Davis'.
While Al Davis preferred to overpay fast, high profile players, McKenzie is a salary cap magician, preferring to take the reliable, inexpensive player.
And often, it works out for the Raiders.
Of course, this isn't what the fans want.
The fans have grown accustomed to the Raiders going out in free agency and signing the biggest names for whatever price.
Of course, this doesn't work.
Just ask teams like the Redskins and Dolphins, who break the bank annually for players and never seem to get any better.
McKenzie employs a different strategy, building through the draft, an art he perfected with the Packers.
Last year, the Green Bay Packers were the second seed in the NFC, and the only player that was drafted by another team was future hall of famer, Julius Peppers.
McKenzie doesn't overpay guys or pursue the flashy, expensive free agents.
And despite what you'll see on Twitter, it works.
Don't believe me?
Check out Randall Cobb.
During the off-season, the Raider Nation insisted that they go out and pay Randall Cobb whatever he wanted to come play in Oakland.
Instead, they waited, and signed "washed up veteran" Michael Crabtree.
Just in case you forgot,
Crabtree's numbers- 66 catches, 760 yards, 7 touchdowns.
Cobb's numbers- 57 catches, 656 yards, 6 touchdowns.
And before you compare offenses... Cobb is playing with Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers paid Cobb 40 million dollars for four years.
The Raiders initially signed Crabtree for only 3.2 million.
By signing Crabtree when he was cheap, they had more money to spend this year and moving forward.
Sure, they ended up extending him for four more years, and they're only paying him 35 million dollars.
So... more production for longer for less money?
It doesn't end there.
The Raiders refused to get into a bidding war over the services of Ndamukong Suh, and Reggie sat at home while the Dolphins paid him 114 million dollars.
So far in 2015, he's only amassed 4 sacks.
For those keeping track at home, that's 28,500,000 dollars per sack.
That's worth it, I'm sure.
Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson, Malcolm Smith, David Amerson, Dan Williams, MIchael Crabtree, Justin Tuck, and... yes, Charles Woodson, have all been great, ineffective free agent acquisitions by Reggie McKenzie.
Sure, people want to harp on his mistakes, and there have been a few.
The hiring of Dennis Allen to be head coach was a mistake.
Before Carr, McKenzie struggled to find a decent quarterback after trading Palmer away.
Matt Flynn? Gross.
Tyler Wilson? Really?
Nobody from the pick-depleted 2012 draft remains aside from much maligned lineman, Tony Bergstrom.
2013's draft class is best known for the failures of corner, DJ Hayden.
2013 also gave the Raiders Rivera and Murray.
And honestly... you've gotta forgive all that when you look at what he did in 2014.
His first three picks...
Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, and Gabe Jackson?
Well, in NFL.com's re-draft, all three players were first round picks.
Fourth round pick, Justin Ellis, has shown flashes of brilliance, and then seventh round pick, T.J. Carrie is arguably the best corner on the team.
And then in 2015?
Amari Cooper right off the bat.
You know, Amari Cooper, the kid who already broke the record for receiving yards by a rookie in Franchise history?
A record that Tim Brown set?
You know, the hall of famer?
Then there's Mario Edwards, who has been phenomenal since he started filling in for Justin Tuck.
Clive Walford becomes more and more involved in the passing game with every week, and the combination of Heeney and Ball have given the Raiders some building blocks in the linebacking corps.
The Raiders have been building through the draft, which is painful for the impatient, but ultimately will be better in the long run.
It hasn't happened overnight, but McKenzie is finally seeing dividends for all his hard work..
Quite a departure from paying Javon Walker 55 million dollars and sending multiple picks for an aging quarterback that hadn't played in months.
Frankly, the arrogance of internet GMs to pretend they could do McKenzie's job better astounds me.
These people cry for a turnover machine like Terrelle Pryor.
These people wish we had paid 115 million dollars for four sacks.
These people want instant gratification but are unwilling to wait or do the work to earn it.
These people... have never taken a snap in the NFL.
They haven't spent one minute in the actual business.
Unlike Reggie... who has been in the NFL since he was drafted, BY THE RAIDERS, in 1985.
Reggie McKenzie has given the Raiders a franchise QB, a pair of talented receivers, a competent runningback, a solid offensive line, and the base for a great defense.
Rome wasn't built in one day, it took 1,009,491.
McKenzie only made you wait 1,435 days.
Consider yourself lucky.
4. You don't have to root for the Raiders.
Isn't it magical?
You don't have to root for this team anymore.
If it's a location thing? Just root for the 49ers or the Chargers.
Hell, if you wait a little bit, you can root for the Rams!
Have fun, the Raider Nation doesn't need your negativity.
If you don't like the way the Raiders run their team, then go buy it from Mark Davis.
Or better yet, get into coaching.
Work your way up and become the head coach of the Raiders.
Or better yet!
Infiltrate the office and tell Reggie yourself!
Of course, if you're gonna remain loyal to mediocre players and overpay average talent... you probably won't be in the league for very long, but hey, it's America, you can do whatever you want!
Obviously, I'm being a jerk.
But I don't understand why anyone would choose to be so negative about something they love.
The Raiders are gonna do whatever the Raiders are gonna do regardless of whether you like it or not. Honestly, it seems like some of you guys root against the team just so that you can be right.
Only one team in NFL history has won every single game on their way to a Super Bowl victory, and they played fewer games.
The Raiders are gonna lose.
They're gonna lose a lot.
But they're also gonna win.
Carr and Cooper and Crabtree and Murray and Walford and Olawale and Roberts and Rivera are gonna be fun to watch on offense for some time moving forward. Mack and Edwards and Williams and Smith too.
The Raiders are getting better, and... that leads me to the fifth, and most exciting lesson.
5. The Raiders are going to make the playoffs in 2016.
Yup. I'm throwing the gauntlet down now.
The Oakland Raiders are going to be a playoff team in 2016.
I'm not saying they'll win the division, but there's no way they don't win enough games to make the playoffs.
A. They're only going to get better.
Think about it, the entire Raiders offense is under contract moving forward, and the same is true for the pieces of the Raiders of the defense that are worth keeping.
The key pieces of the Raiders offense are young enough to just keep getting better, and with another Reggie McKenzie off-season, it's fun to speculate on what the Raiders defense could look like.
Hell, just think about our biggest needs.
Offensive line depth.
That's really it.
Another wideout would be nice, maybe a young safety to replace C-Wood, but... they don't need to add much.
B. The schedule is looking gooooood.
The Raiders play the AFC and NFC South in 2016, and in all likelihood, the third seed in the AFC East and North.
So... the schedule could end up looking like this, and, keep in mind, we're gonna play make believe here. We're gonna have to use our imagination and make some assumptions. The reality is, we have no idea what any of these teams will be like next year, and I could be dead wrong.
We play every team in the AFC West twice, as per usual.
We established that the Raiders are going to be as good as they are this year, if not better.
Can Kansas City really get better with Alex Smith under center?
He's not getting any younger, and while he does what he does very well... It's not much. He's a glorified game manager. They'll be good, but not great.
San Diego? Blame the coaching, blame the front office, but they're falling apart. They can't seem to get weapons for Philip Rivers, and whatever talent they have on defense is on their way out.
Denver? They'll be interesting, but there's no question that they won't be as dynamic on offense as they have been in recent memory, though their defense should still be pretty solid.
So.. Maybe they split the series with Kansas City and Denver, then sweep San Diego?
And then we get the third seeds, which will likely be the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills.
I say this because the Ravens can't smell Pittsburgh or Cincy, but they've already got a leg up on the Browns. And the third seed in the AFC East could easily be the Jets, Dolphins, or Bills... but I think the Bills are right in the middle.
The 2016 Ravens will be better than the 2015 model... but we also have to remember that the Raiders beat the Ravens in week two. They were still much healthier and fresh back then... Sure, there's a chance the game will be in Baltimore, on the east coast, where the Raiders struggle...
But you know what? I think that's a myth.
The 49ers won on the east coast, the Seahawks won on the east coast, and historically, the Raiders won on the east coast.
I think the Raiders have on lost on the east coast because they've been a bad team.
So, I think the Raiders can beat the Ravens again. Put another win on the board.
And the Bills?
Well... They're not getting any younger on defense, and unless Tyrod Taylor lives under Tom Brady's bed for a year, I don't think he'll be a gamebreaker any time soon.
That's six already.
And here's where it gets fun.
The AFC South.
THE AFC SOUTH.
Sure, the Colts will be better by then, but they've still got a myriad of issues and a ton of holes on both sides of the ball, especially considering Gore and Johnson will probably have retired by then.
Sure, if you combined the three, you'd have a good team, but...
We'll be cautious, and say the Raiders split.
Look! Eight wins!
You guys love eight wins!
And then the NFC South.
The Panthers will still be great, in fact, they'll be even better because Kelvin Benjamin will be back.
The Falcons? Well, that depends, if we catch them after their annual mid-season collapse, that's a win.
The Saints? Lol, moving on.
And the Bucs? That could be a really good game depending on how this off-season goes for Tampa.
But I'll give Oakland three wins.
That's an eleven win season, yo.
Of course, this is all speculation, and I could easily be wrong.
Any of these teams could improve drastically between now and then.
The Raiders could randomly regress.
Stranger things have happened.
There's also a chance that they won't.
There's a chance that the Raiders get better faster than any of these other teams.
If the last two drafts showed us anything, it's that they don't have to be a first round player to have first round talent.
1. Forget about 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Even if we suddenly live in an alternate dimension where logic and reason don't apply, those teams are gone. Long gone, and there's no getting them back.
If you can't get go of these seasons, I feel so bad for any girl you've ever dated.
2. We're actually not bad.
Carr, Murray, Gabe Jackson, Dan Williams, Khalil Mack, and Charles Woodson are having pro-bowl seasons, and Amari Cooper is almost a lock for rookie of the year.
If that's not enough for you, go root for the Patriots until Brady retires.
3. Reggie McKenzie > You.
I know that when you play Madden on Rookie with the salary cap off, you have no problem building an NFL franchise, sadly, that's not the way the real world works. It takes time, and a lot of work. The NFL Draft is a crapshoot, and for god's sake, if Reggie sucks, then tell me a GM that doesn't, because even the best teams have struggled lately.
4. Nobody's forcing you to be a Raiders fan.
Go root for any other team. If you wanna win right now, that's really too bad, that's not the way the world works. Go root for New England or Carolina or Seattle if you're too impatient. Though I must admit, you'd look pretty stupid abandoning ship after all these bad seasons just as we're getting good.
5. This isn't your father's "Next Year"
It's not, "next year we'll be better", it's not "Sigh, maybe next year". The combination of a weak schedule and the consistency of the roster leave little doubt in my mind that the Oakland Raiders will be in the post-season next season. Throw stones if you want, but I'm keeping them in a box and I'll find you when I'm right.