As you can see if you scroll through this website, I write about the Oakland Raiders far more than any other team. I’ve written about who Derek Carr‘s passes have gone to, who they shouldn’t draft, how fascinating their roster is, and how many games I think they’ll win this year. I write about the Oakland Raiders as often as I possibly can, but I suppose my work comes off as negative or skeptical because one message seems to be consistent on Twitter (follow me on there, my handle is RyanSmithNFL), Facebook (forget about it), and in the comment section of articles, everywhere I’ve ever written. “You’re just hater.”
I’m a Raider Hater
This season, I’ll stay home to catch every episode of Hard Knocks (wrote about that too). I’ll watch all four of Oakland’s pre-season games from start to finish. I’ll watch all sixteen regular season games. Should they manage to lock down a wild card spot or even conquer the AFC West, I’ll follow them on their post-season run.
I’ll dejectedly stare on during each loss, and I’ll celebrate each win, even the ugly ones, as boisterously as I would winning the lottery. My jaw will drop for every awe-inspiring Antonio Brown catch, I’ll pump my fist for Jonathan Abram’s first big hit over the middle, and at least once, likely after some four quarter heroics, I’ll tweet something along the lines of…
I’ll follow the Raiders on social media, television, and likely in person at every possible occasion over the next seven months before digging into free agency and possible draft targets (the Raiders still have two first rounders next season!). I’ll watch the Raiders at every possible opportunity because despite the title of this article, I love this team.
But I’m also a realist. I’m skeptical about uncertain things, and make no mistake, the success of the Oakland Raiders is uncertain. They play in one of the most competitive divisions in the entire NFL. Both the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs have explosive offenses, while the Denver Broncos have an intimidating defense. The Raiders have to travel over 35,000 miles this season, and will go nearly half the year without a home game. If you combined every sack of a NFL quarterback the entire Raiders defense had last year? It’s 15, two more than they had all of last year but still half as many as the 31st ranked team.
That’s 15 sacks from 42 players, incidentally. The most anyone had last season was four sacks. Now, it’s worth noting that a decent chunk of Oakland’s defensive players are rookies this year. Two assumed starters, Clelin Ferrell and Jonathan Abram, haven’t taken a snap in the NFL yet, and it’s not crazy to expect big things from them early.
However, it’s hard for pass rushers to make the leap from college to the pros. Every now and then someone like Joey Bosa or Von Miller makes an immediate impact, but usually it takes time. J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack both failed to break 10 sacks as a rookie, and without a proven veteran, offensive linemen can focus on stopping Mo Hurst and Ferrell. The Raiders play 13 games against Pro Bowl quarterbacks including two against Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers as well as Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Deshaun Watson.
And offensively, the team should be better, but I still have questions about the offensive line. Tom Cable is still the head coach, Trent Brown didn’t have to do a whole lot in New England, the deranged Richie Incognito is starting at guard, and while Kolton Miller showed a ton of heart last year, he still hasn’t proven that he’s a good player. With a good offensive line and the kind of weapons that Derek Carr has this season? He should play really well, but the likes of Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan played really well last season and their teams didn’t make the playoffs either.
“I’d Hate to Say I Told You So”
Where are all these wins supposed to come from? I hope I’m wrong, and I’ll take no pleasure if I’m right. I don’t want to be a downer but the Raiders got the short end of the stick from the scheduling committee, they’re gonna rack up frequent flier miles, there’s ton of unproven talent on this roster, and without the power of belief, I don’t see how they’re supposed to win nine games.
I get being excited about the Raiders and wanting them to be great isn’t unreasonable. I want them to be great too. But I’ve wanted them to be great every single year that I’ve been a fan, and when you want something bad enough, you can convince yourself of just about anything. Don’t believe me?
2008. Now that JaMarcus Russell is under contract and has a star back like Darren McFadden, he’ll come into his own! The suffering finally ends!
2009. Now that JaMarcus Russell has a stud number one reciever like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Darren McFadden is healthy. It’s gonna be Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison except in Silver and Black!
2010. Darren McFadden is finally healthy, we have a real quarterback in Jason Campbell, and stud linebacker Rolando McClain is gonna turn our defense around.
2011. We were so close last season! Now Hue’s taken over full time and he’s gonna make our offense top ten, maybe even top five, especially with a healthy Darren McFadden.
2012. Carson Palmer, Darren McFadden, and Darrius Heyward-Bey are all healthy at the same time. Game over, finally getting over that 8-8 hump!
2013. Terrelle Pryor is lightning in a bottle. Just watch him carry our team late into the playoffs!
2014. For the first time in forever, we have a franchise quarterback! #StartTheCarr!
2015. We ramped up the offensive line, Mario Edwards is gonna take some pressure off of Khalil Mack, and now Derek has some weapons!
2016. Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith are gonna transform our defense into a monster with Ken Norton Jr. and our offense is gonna be the same as last year! LFG!
2017. Derek’s finally healthy, we have some new muscle in Marshawn Lynch, and the draft gave us defensive studs like Gareon Conley and Eddie Vanderdoes! Look out world!
2018. So Mack might be gone, but look how loaded this offense is? A healthy Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, and Jared Cook? Good luck slowing this team down.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the offense is explosive. Maybe Clelin Ferrell is a day-one beast or Arden Key makes a monumental leap in season two. Maybe all the contract disputes distract the Los Angeles Chargers and Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs aren’t all that after all. I guess that’s why they play the game. But until then, I’ll be in my Silver and Black all day, every day, every day until my time runs out screamin’ Just Win Baby…
Even if I am a Raider hater.