For the first time in forever, there is legitimate optimism surrounding the Oakland Raiders. While questions about their future in Oakland continue to linger, the on-field product is getting better fast. Quarterback Derek Carr has started all 32 games since being drafted by the Raiders in 2014. Carr has thrown 53 career touchdowns to just 25 interceptions. However, those impressive numbers have not translated to wins. The Raiders are just 10-22 with Carr at the helm. When you consider that Carr inherited the worst situation in football when he was drafted, the fact that he has performed as well as he has is quite impressive.
The Raiders wasted no time in adding talent on the roster to go with their quarterback of the future. Linebacker Khalil Mack was drafted in the same class with Carr and is an All-Pro. The same can be said for wide receiver Amari Cooper who was drafted last year. In the 2016 draft, the Raiders added some fantastic athletes on defense in West Virginia safety Karl Joseph and Illinois pass rusher Jihad Ward. Both guys are capable of making offensive coordinators lose a lot of sleep.
The Raiders may have finally turned a corner last year, finishing a gutty 7-9 under well respected head coach Jack Del Rio, including impressive wins over the Jets and eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos. This season may be the year the Raiders finally become a force again. This once proud franchise has not posted a winning record since the 2002 season, after which they lost the Super Bowl to their former coach Jon Gruden and Tampa Bay. An endless stream of horrendous quarterbacks and over-matched head coaches have come and gone since. I thought it would be fun to look at some things that have happened since the Raiders last had a winning season.
- Jerry Rice was the leading receiver for the Raiders in 2002. Of course, he has long since retired and been inducted into the Pro football Hall of Fame as well as gone on to win Dancing with the Stars, which was not around in 2002.
- George W. Bush was in his first term as President of the United States
- Derek Carr was 11 years old
- the Super Bowl halftime show featured Shania Twain (my favorite singer of all time), No Doubt, and Sting
- Facebook and Twitter had not been created
- The Montréal Expos were still two years away from moving to DC and becoming the Nationals.
- Every other NFL franchise has posted at least one winning season, the closest the Raiders have gotten since 2002 was a .500 record in 2011.
As a lifelong Broncos fan, I am supposed to hate the fact that the Raiders are getting better, but I don’t. I want so badly for the Broncos/Raiders rivalry to mean something again. When both teams are consistently good, I think it is the best rivalry in football. This set of facts illustrates how long it has been for Oakland and the kind of history the current players are facing. With the current roster and coaching staff, they have their best chance to end this dubious streak in a very long time.
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