As we look back over this haunting and daunting 2020 NFL season, we ride an incredibly disheartening roller coaster. This ride requires a “not for the faint of heart” warning label. From a 2-0 start, including a victory over the now 11-4 New Orleans Saints, things looked great. However, what followed: two losses to the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders did not bore anyone.
At this point in the season, the Raiders stood at a modest 2-2. That difficult stretch of their schedule, disappeared out of the way.
Bringing a two-game losing streak into their first AFC West matchup of the year left many feeling negative. Arrowhead stood as the team’s house of horrors. Yet, the Raiders shocked the league with a 40-32 victory and headed into the bye week at 3-2.
The victory over Kansas City lit a spark with the Raiders. Sadly, said flame was quickly extinguished by a crushing 45-20 defeat from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although it was the Raiders’ third loss of the season, it was the first time many started considering this team was not all it was cracked up to be. Playoff teams do not lose games by 25.
Following the loss, the Raiders quickly gave fans reasons to forget their doubts by winning three straight games over the Cleveland Browns (now 10-5), Los Angeles Chargers, and the Denver Broncos. These victories, although only one came against a playoff team, instilled a level of hope this franchise had not seen since 2016 and even caused national media to pay attention.
Even after their next game, a nailbiting loss to the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders were still very highly regarded and many considered them one of the few teams the Chiefs would not want to run into come playoff time.
Then, the 2020 Raiders Rollercoaster entered the part of the ride called “Deja Vu”, which features a gravity and logic-defying downward spiral with a short break in the middle that makes one feel like the spiral has ended, just to head downhill even faster than before.
An embarrassing defeat to a below- .500 team late in the season is beginning to act as a curtain call of sorts for the Raiders. For the second straight season, they cannot recover from this devilish ride. These baffling losses should be treated as a “fool me once…” situation in regards to head coach Jon Gruden, as one late-season collapse is forgivable. Repeating it with a vastly improved team the very next season should remain the reddest of flags.
While it is far too early to consider a replacement, perhaps it is time to reduce our expectations for this team. Gruden has yet to coach the Raiders to a winning record in his second tenure, and it begs the question of the game passing him by.