TODavis died 10 years ago next week, and his beloved NFL team now plays its home games nine hours from Oakland. But the Raiders aren’t ready to walk away from their deep “Just Win, Baby” legacy, and they may never be. Ten years later, they still wear little black AL shield stickers on those shiny silver helmets.
His 66-year-old son Mark, who has owned and coached the Raiders since his father’s death, infuriated the legion of loyal fans in Oakland by leaving for Las Vegas before last season, despite the fact that said he tried to get a new stadium. built in Oakland even after the city raised the rent on the old one.
Since Al Davis died in 2011, the Raiders haven’t been that good either, posting a winning season and losing their only playoff game in that span. Even after Jon Gruden, the cheeky coach who really traded to a team Who beat them in the Super Bowl, came back to sign a record 10-year, $ 100 million deal before the 2018 season, the best the Raiders could do was 8-8.
But wait. Take another look. Three games is too early to tag them as contenders, but the Raiders are 3-0 after a hairy 28-25 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, their second overtime win this season. They haven’t been 3-0 since 2002, the season after Gruden, traded to Tampa Bay, beat Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.
“We still haven’t played our best football. And I think that’s frustrating and exciting, ”Derek Carr, the veteran Raiders quarterback, said in a post-game interview with CBS on Sunday.
There have been several interesting developments so far in the 2021 NFL season – the Panthers, Rams and Broncos are 3-0 with new quarterbacks, but the Raiders, tied with Denver for first place in the tough AFC West ( two games ahead of Kansas City!), they stand their ground and emerge from the shadows of a dismal decade.
They play the Chargers, last-minute road winners over the Chiefs, next Monday night in Los Angeles. But it’s still the Raiders, the team that NFL fans loved to hate long before the Patriots. They have Gruden, the 58-year-old former animated television analyst known to fans and naysayers alike as “Chucky,” the character from the slasher movie.
With three Super Bowl wins and 28 Hall of Famers in its history, a resurgence and relevance The Raiders are good for the NFL. The Raiders have been good for the league lately, anyway, considering the way Davis and Gruden strongly supported defensive lineman Carl Nassib in June when he came out as the NFL’s first active gay player. “If he’s happy, I’m happy,” Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the time.
The Raiders have a long history of getting ahead of the curve. Al Davis, with his Brooklyn background and AFL roots, is often scrapped with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, the league’s image maker. Davis hired Art Shell in 1989 to become the league’s first black coach in 60 years. Longtime team executive Amy Trask became the NFL’s first CEO in 1997.
The Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is state-of-the-art and packed with fans now that the doors are open again. The Raiders have found a way to somehow recreate the Black Hole, the sections in Oakland where the team’s most rabid fans, many of them in garish suits, rallied to back the Raiders raising hell, even during bad years. .
(Winning them was a project. Rob Rivera, a Hayward, California resident who was president and co-founder of Black Hole, died earlier this month from the coronavirus. He never saw a game in Las Vegas, he told The Guardian by Last time. year, “The measure has broken our hearts, pissed us off. They showed loyalty is a one-way street in the NFL.”)
Carr has improved statistically in each of the past three seasons, but he only had 19 wins to show for it. Carr threw for 386 yards in his awkward win over the Dolphins, which led the Raiders to two field goals in overtime. “Maybe my pregame speeches aren’t very good,” Gruden said afterward.
Justin Herbert, the gorgeous young Chargers quarterback, will offer a more serious challenge next week than Dolphins backup Jacoby Brissett did on Sunday, as did the Broncos’ Teddy Bridgewater … and, of course Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. Twice each. Then it becomes more difficult.
But the Raiders are excited. Gruden said again last week at a news conference that he’s never lacking in confidence, but that his players now seem to be following suit and winning games they may not have won in past seasons.
The Raiders brought something called the Al Davis Memorial Torch, which is lit, usually by a former player or coach, before every home game to pay tribute to his belief that “the brightest fire in the Raiders organization is the will to win.” It seems, so far this season at least, that the team doesn’t really need the torch.
“That’s how Gruden and I are, man,” Carr said. “We always talk about, ‘Man, do we have to go?’ We have so many plays; we have so many things we want to do. It’s like, ‘Can we play a doubleheader?’ I don’t know if our bodies could hold out, but our minds are willing to. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism