In a new series, titled Forgotten Teams, the staff here at BroSports (what a ridiculous name) will highlight teams that history seems to have forgotten, despite their excellence. Today, we take a closer look at the 2000 Oakland Raiders, arguably Jon Gruden’s best Raiders squad, that history has forgotten.
Forgotten Teams: The 2000 Oakland Raiders
A year removed, Jon Gruden’s return to the bay has been a tumultuous, if entertaining, journey. The man they call Chucky demolished the roster, cutting recent staples like Marquette King and Michael Crabtree, as well as trading away Pro Bowlers, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack. Here in 2019, it looks like Gruden’s vision is becoming clearer, targeting foundational, high-character guys in the draft and acquiring studs like Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Trent Brown during the off-season. Raider Nation is hoping these moves will help return the Raiders to the greatness that the franchise was once known for.
As most fans already know, this wouldn’t be the first time that Gruden saved the Silver and Black. During Jon Gruden’s first reign as head coach, he followed up consecutive 8-8 seasons with a 12-4 campaign in 2000 that gave the Raiders their first AFC West title in a decade. Regrettably, the Cinderalla Raider revival would end in the AFC Championship game, an ugly loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
That’s probably what comes to mind for most of Raider Nation when they think of the 2000 season, the first of three heartbreaking playoff losses at the beginning of the millenium. Tom Brady and the Tuck Rule happened a year later, and the following season it was Gruden himself, crushing the Raiders in the Super Bowl with his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Nearly 20 years later, rule changes have severely watered down most passing statistics, so some of the numbers you’re about to read might not seem impressive. But I assure you, for the time period? The Raiders were shooting the lights out.
In 2000, the Raiders scored 479 points, which averages out to 30 points a game, the most in franchise history. Rich Gannon was top ten in passing yards (3,430) and top five in touchdowns (28) while only throwing 11 interceptions (21 quarterbacks threw more interceptions that year). Tim Brown caught a career-high 11 touchdown passes, while registering his eighth consecutive 1,000 yard season. Meanwhile Tyrone Wheatley had 1,046 yards and touchdowns in 13 games, and Zack Crockett was crushing short yardage on his way to a wild 130 yard, seven touchdown season.
The Other Chucky
The defense wasn’t bad either! Chuck Bresnahan’s second stint with the Raiders as defensive coordinator was a disaster, but his first wasn’t, at least not the entire time. In 2000, the Raiders defense only have up 299 points all season, that’s only about 19 points a game. The team got 43 sacks out of 13 different players registered sacks, headed off by Grady Jackson’s eight from inside, and the secondary picked off 21 passes, four of which went back for touchdowns. Imagine a defense where Charles Woodson was only third in interceptions.
The Raiders were outscoring, outgaining, and outplaying everyone, including the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, who they swept in classic AFC West style, with three ugly low-scoring games and one shootout. The Raiders won 12 games by an average of 17 points, and unlike recent seasons, their losses weren’t too bad either. Their four losses came by an average of four points a game, with their biggest loss only being by nine points. Compare that to last year, where they lost by an average of 17 points a game. That’s right, the Raiders were as good in 2000 as they were bad in 2019.
So why is this team forgotten? Why is arguably the best Raiders team in franchise history one that isn’t remembered as well as the two following seasons or the 2016 campaign? Well, firstly, because they didn’t win a Super Bowl, and despite what the last 20 years will tell you, this is a fanbase that maintains certain expectations for excellence.
Secondly, the season didn’t have a spectacular (or rather, devastating) ending like the other relevant Raider squads. 2001 ended in the Tuck Rule, 2002 ended in Super Bowl XXXVII, and 2016 ended when Derek Carr‘s MVP caliber season did. The 2000 AFC Championship game was a bit of a dude
With the exception of an inexplicable 96 yard touchdown from Shannon Sharpe, the rest of the game was a duel between Sebastian Janikowski and Matt Stover. Tony Siragusa and the Baltimore defense knocked Rich Gannon out of the game for most of the first half, and then he wasn’t the same when he returned in the second half. Bobby Hoying stepped in for Gannon, but all he did was complete eight of 16 passes for 107 yards and two interceptions. The iconic defense ended the day with four sacks, four interceptions, and a forced fumble recovered.
Luck Is for Losers
The Raiders just didn’t have luck on their side either. The 96 yard blown coverage was one thing, but throw in a blown goal-line opportunity, and an Andre Rison touchdown that was nullified by a penalty and it just wasn’t pretty. Ultimately it might not have mattered, as the defense completely shut down the NFL’s best rushing offense, holding them to 24 yards rushing.
The Raider Nation is arguably the best fanbase in all of professional sports, and they have been haunted by what-if moments. From the immaculate reception to Gannon’s injury to the Tuck Rule to Carr’s fibula, this iconic franchise has seen it’s fair share of near misses.
Hopefully brighter days are ahead for the men and women that don silver and black every Sunday (and the occasional Monday and Thursday), but just because it’s been a few decades since their last championship, that doesn’t mean they haven’t had their fair share of excellent football.
So that was the first entry, did we forget anything about the 2000 Raiders? Do you think the Raiders would’ve fared better if Rich Gannon hadn’t been hurt? And what forgotten team would you like to see us tackle next? Let us know in the comment section below.