The Oakland Raiders Should Tank the Season
The Oakland Raiders are a complete and total mess right now. There is just no way around it. The Raiders only have one win so far, and they traded away key players at the start of the season and prior to the trade deadline. It’s hard to pinpoint the main catalyst for the collapse of this Raiders’ season, but, for me, the deciding factor came into play a week before the regular season began.
On Sept. 1, 2018, the Raiders traded away their all-pro defensive end and transcending talent Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for two first-round draft picks from 2019 and 2020. It’s understandable to want to make a trade when the offer in return is two first-round draft choices, especially since they weren’t making progress on Mack’s contract negotiations. That being said, Oakland hasn’t had a defender who can change the game and be as dominant as Mack in decades. This was a major blow, and it made a big statement that the Raiders aren’t interested in winning this year.
The situation only got worse when the losses started piling in, starting out 0-3 and entering the bye week at 1-5. During the bye week, they exchanged their number one, albeit struggling, wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for another first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Raiders were shopping almost anyone on their roster before the Oct. 30 trade deadline. From their terrible start and many big trades, it’s clear the team is looking to end the season with the worst record in their division and, maybe, the NFL. There are even rumors that the players are starting to turn on their head coach Jon Gruden.
With all that being said, the Raiders actively trying to tank makes sense for them right now. While the fans and players may not like it, at the end of the day, it must happen. Think of this as a major surgery; it’s messy, it’s painful and people don’t always want to do it, but it must be done.
Let's backtrack to last season when the Raiders already knew they wanted to fire Jack Del Rio after an underachieving season. The front office already knew they wanted to bring back Jon Gruden, who has been out of the league for ten years doing color commentary for ESPN on Monday night football. Gruden was the last successful head coach in Oakland, so it makes sense the would want him back. They signed Gruden to an expensive $10 million per year for 10 years. The key here is the 10 years, as it that shows that the front office is willing to be patient with Gruden. Gruden won’t be expected to win a Super Bowl this year or even the next. They are looking towards the future, hoping for a win in the latter years of that long contract. The early years of the contract will be ugly, but this is an investment the Raiders are should and are taking.
The Raiders are also going to attempt to go against the grain with the current state of the NFL. The current trend in the NFL is to turn over your teams coaching staff very frequently. If the head coach and general manager/owner can't find success after two or three years, they are expected to be fired. The Raiders are willing to run the risk of having a few miserable seasons to start if it means greater success in the long run.
While tanking is frowned upon in sports in the NFL, we have seen NFL teams go from cellar dwellers to championship contenders in one or two draft classes. The most memorable trade in NFL history was when the Dallas Cowboys sent their star running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for numerous draft picks. Many people at the time thought the Cowboys got robbed. However, the aftermath showed that, while Herschel Walker ended up doing very little in his few years in Minnesota, the Dallas Cowboys ended up drafting their way to a dynasty and three Super Bowl wins with big draft picks like Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith.
The Raiders could see the same success. With these new draft picks, the Raiders have the ability to become one of the better squads in the NFL. They will have three first round picks to work within the upcoming draft, and two for the 2020 draft. Even though the Raiders aren’t known for drafting, it would be a surprise to see even them miss on three first rounders. In the 2013 NFL draft, the Vikings had three first round picks, and, while they whiffed on two of them, they landed a lockdown pro-bowl corner in Xavier Rhodes. Even the Cleveland Browns, who are notorious for bad drafting, were able to land promising (for now) players like Myles Garrett, David Njoku, and Jabrill Peppers.
The big fear in Oakland is that Jon Gruden is an outdated coach living in the past. The other fear is that Derek Carr is not capable of being a franchise quarterback. If either situation ends up being the truth, then these moves will look terrible down the line. The key will is patience. We will only know if the suffering is worth it in a few years from now. Derek Carr was an MVP candidate until he got injured in 2016. If Carr gets a better roster around him, there’s no reason the Raiders can’t be a great team again. Gruden is the ultimate x-factor. If he can be the offensive wizard that he was back at the turn of the century, then the Raiders will see much success. If he’s an outdated coach, then this will be an ugly ending, and the owner may have to buy out ten years of his contract just to get rid of him.
I honestly want to see the Raiders be good again. While I’m not personally a fan, Raiders supporters, whether in Oakland or Vegas, deserve to see a winning team. As for the rest of us well, the Raiders are entrenched in NFL history, and they used to be the villains of the NFL. The NFL can use another villain like the Raiders again, allowing the country to take a break from hating the Patriots. However, in order to do so, they will have to suffer for the next few years.
Photo Caption: Oakland Raiders