Act 1 - The Las Vegas Raiders
On March 27, 2017, the NFL ended years of speculation and announced that the Oakland Raiders would relocate to Las Vegas. The announcement left the raiders in limbo with one foot in Oakland and the other in Nevada for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The new stadium in Las Vegas isn’t slated to open until 2020 or 2021 at the latest.
While the 2018 season looks to go as smoothly as the 2017 season did, there is now some doubt as to how the Raiders year-to-year lease of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is going to pan out in 2019 and 2020, if necessary.
Oakland is suing the Raiders and the NFL over the team's move to Las Vegas, hoping for damages of $500 million. Taxpayers are still on the hook for $75 million in debt for Coliseum upgrades made decades ago to get the Raiders back from LAhttps://t.co/fhremiTbeq— Mike Rosenberg (@ByRosenberg) September 5, 2018
So, in the face of this hefty lawsuit, the Raiders are threatening to leave Oakland early. With their stadium in Las Vegas unavailable until 2020 at the absolute earliest, there is some question as to where the Raiders will play. Levi’s Stadium? Sam Boyd Field in Vegas? San Antonio? San Diego (as my brother-in-law the Raiders fan posits)? Or could they just play an an entire 16-game schedule on the road as Pro Football Talk considered.
Needless to say, the sands under the Raiders feet are shifting. What remains to be seen is how the Raiders of Oakland will transition to the family-friendly vacation destination Raiders. You can bet that the horrors of the Black Hole will no longer be tolerated in order to entice visiting team’s fans to their games. The franchise is soon to be transformed into an NFL version of Disneyland and I wonder if Raiders fans will recognize them when they take the field in the 702. Stay tuned..
Act 2 - Jon Gruden
On January 26, 2018 it was announced that Jon Gruden would be returning to the Oakland Raiders under an unprecedented 10-year $100 million contract. The longest tenured coach in Raiders history is John Madden who helmed the team for 10 seasons, from 1969-1978. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Jon Gruden is no John Madden.
Most of Gruden’s head coaching success came during his first tour with the Raiders, amassing a 38-26 record. Despite winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to cap the 2002 season, he’s just two whiskers over .500 with a record of 57-55.
While Gruden is technically a winning coach, he’s 17-years removed from the Raiders and 7-years removed from coaching. Some argue that being in the booth for Monday Night Football kept him in the game, but I say that unfettered access to the media buffet changes a man.
In the draft, the Raiders selected 3rd round prospect OT Kolton Miller with their 1st round pick. In the 2nd round, they continued to defy logic by selecting Division 1-AA DT P.J. Hall. The Raiders then traded one of their 3rd round picks to the Steelers for WR Martavis Bryant. After a lackluster camp marred by a likely drug suspension, the Raiders cut Bryant only to bring him back earlier this week with his suspension status still up in the air. While it’s hard to evaluate the success of a draft immediately after the fact, pundits and analysts alike took issue with the moves Oakland made during the draft. With all the talent on the board, Oakland, for better and likely worse, stuck to their plan... assuming they had one.
Act 3 - Marquette King
Since Gruden came to the Raiders, the changes he’s brought to the team have been Josh McDaniels-style dramatic. His first order of business was to cut Pro Bowl punter Marquette King because he didn’t like how King danced. Forget about pinning opponents deep to gain an advantage in field position. What’s truly important, more important that winning, is that the Raiders punter not draw attention to himself.
King’s replacement, rookie P Johnny Townsend appears on this week’s injury report with a right quadriceps injury. It’s unclear if it will affect his ability to play on Sunday against the Broncos.
Act 4 - Khalil Mack
As the 2018 season approached, there was a belief that the Raiders and Khalil Mack would figure out their contract woes and get something done. There was no way that the Raiders would allow a 3-time Pro Bowler, 2-time 1st Team All Pro, and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year go without a fight. There was no way they’d risk letting 40.5 sacks and 231 tackles just walk out the door. Just kidding, that’s exactly what they did.
When Howie Long retired in 1993, the Raiders would spend the next 21-years searching for their next elite pass rusher and found one in Mack. On September 1, 2018 Raiders fans were served the sobering news that Mack had been traded to the Chicago Bears. Their future hall of famer along with a 2019 2nd round pick were dealt for two 1st round picks (2019 and 2020). Just like that, he was gone. Poof!
Following the Raiders week 1 loss to the Rams, Gruden was perplexed as to why Oakland wasn’t able to pressure the opposing offense.
“When you can run the ball like they ran in the second half, it’s very hard to rush the passer,” Gruden said, via James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Obviously, we didn’t get to Goff enough, and we didn’t get to Gurley enough. We’ll take a good look at the reasons why we didn’t.”
Pssssssst... I think I know why. On Sunday night in Mack’s Chicago Bear debut, Khalil got a sack, a fumble, and returned an interception for a touchdown. Were it not for an inhuman performance from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers, the story of the night would have been dominated by Khalil Mack.
The Denver Broncos host Oakland on Sunday. With all the tumult and change the Raiders are enduring, there is no reason why the Denver Broncos shouldn’t add another act to this football tragedy already underway in Oakland.