Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Great Silver & Black Awakening

I could have written this when the Raiders went into the Superdome and busted out massive cojones in beating the Saints by going for two. I could have written it last week when they had their best performance to date in rolling the defending champs and taking control of the AFC West. Instead, I am writing this after they went off to Mexico and won in a sloppy game against the Texans. But really, there is no better or worse time. There is just the future. The Raiders are back. The NFL is better for it, and so am I.

The rebirth of the Raiders is not a surprise. They were a trendy sleeper pick before the season started, so much so it became very passe to tout them as a playoff team, with people moving off the Raiders to other flavor of the weeks in Jacksonville or Buffalo. Yet, even for the people that fully supported the Raiders, having them be the #1 seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today through 10 weeks is surprising. The Raiders are not a great team, but they are an unbelievably clutch and confident team. The Raiders are winning by doing what they know: passing, blocking and going for it.

This all started in the 2014 NFL Draft, when for some reason Khalil Mack slipped to the 5th pick. The Raiders got him, and then got Derek Carr in the 2nd round. Two years later, Mack is living up to the hype, and Carr is easily the best QB from his class, and probably the best young (3 seasons or less) QB in the NFL, if not a potential MVP pick. Two years ago, they were 0-10 through ten weeks. Now, they are the, by record, best in the AFC. But actually it goes back earlier than that.

The Raiders hired Reggie McKenzie to take over as GM in 2012. He was the first true GM of the Raiders not named Al Davis. While Davis's legacy weighed strong, he inherited a team without a rudder. He immediately cleaned house. While that seems in hindsight like an easy, necessary decision, the Raiders were coming off of back-to-back 8-8 seasons. Still, he saw the broken system in Oakland, and did what he thought was best. The Raiders paid him back by going 11-37 over the next three seasons. He kept his job. They are 15-11 since, with even better things to come.

We can credit Jack Del Rio, or Derek Carr, or the rebirth of Michael Crabtree, or the continuing growth of Amari Cooper, or the slow build of a dominant OL. There are many reasons why the Raiders are 8-2. All of them have played a part in creating a dynamic team in Oakland. All of them are reasons. All of them have helped create one of the stories of the season. It may be lost under the glow of Dak, or the continued brilliance of the Seahawks and Patriots, or the general sloppiness and mediocrity, but the success of the Raiders will have the longest impact.

Ratings are down, this is arguably the biggest story of the 2016 season, and to me the explanation is simple: Peyton is gone. Now, that is reductive. It is not only him, but Peyton retiring (and Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis and countless others) ended a chapter of the NFL book, and now they have to create another one. This happened before, in 1999-2002, and then Brady and Peyton ascended and took over. The NFL needs that next set of teams, and there is no better candidate than the Raiders.

The rebirth of the Raiders can be the punch the NFL needed, bringing a once-great franchise back to glory. The Raiders were one of the two primary powers in the AFC during the era that so many put up as the one that grew the game. The have a national fanbase, if more than a sustainable local one (which is why Las Vegas would be perfect for them). They can drive ratings and interest. The Raiders stood for so much in the old NFL, and nothing can help resuscitate the league than that special franchise and history rising again.

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.