As the Kansas City Chiefs and a Tom Brady-led team ascend to another Super Bowl, the Raiders will watch old foes in the big game. While they sit at home, football continues to move on without them.
Remember the pain of NFL purgatory that the Raiders find themselves stuck in. Most Super Bowl champions once struggled to reach the playoffs as well. In fact, just a mere five years ago, the Buffalo Bills stood at 8-8. There are going to be “struggle seasons” throughout a franchise’s history. However, enduring these will make success feel like a warm shower after a day in the snow.
Many felt as though the Raiders’ “window” out of this purgatory opened in 2016. Also, it appeared closed just as quickly following Derek Carr’s injury. Later, the departures of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Khalil Mack stung.
Meanwhile, the Raiders do find their window still ajar with a young base on both sides of the ball, and still, a few years before major salary cap decisions need to be made. Although there is still time for this team to get acquainted with the playoffs, it still is a finite amount of time. Soon, Josh Jacobs, Kolton Miller, and Maurice Hurst will be ending their rookie deals and inevitably expecting a new (and much bigger) contract.
Through all the ups and downs and drama of the 2020 NFL season, the Raiders stood 6-3. The team boasted victories over the New Orleans Saints and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders team from the first half of the season was careening for the playoffs. The team’s defense, run blocking, and morale bent, broke, and burned those chances.
The Raiders’ current offense is good enough to get a “good enough” defense to the playoffs. Drafting a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round would feel like putting the team’s eggs into one basket. This is not the Big 12, where scoring 50+ points a game is possible. If Las Vegas is unable to find offensive tackle Trent Brown’s potential replacement in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, their draft eyes should shift to defense, and essentially the best available defensive player will do, as this defense needs help just about everywhere.
Looking back at the two halves of the 2020 season, it is hard to remember a time where there was this much confusion surrounding the future of this team.