It was a great scene on Thursday night at what is now RingCentral Coliseum.
The Oakland Raiders won their second game in a row to improve to 5-4 on the year, sinking the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers in primetime in Week 10. The Silver and Black has one of the most passionate fanbases in the NFL, but 2019 will be the last year Raider Nation will come alive in Oakland.
On-going stadium issues have forced one of the league’s most iconic franchises to move eastward to Southern Nevada to become the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. No, this won’t be the first time the Raiders have relocated, but hopefully, it will be the last. Before they become a marquee free-agent destination franchise in the desert, here’s to one last great run in the Bay Area for their fans.
It’s been a ton of losing for the Silver and Black in the 21st Century. After reaching Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002, the Raiders have made the AFC playoffs just once in the past 16 years. That lone season was back in 2016 when quarterback Derek Carr was playing at an MVP level. The Raiders went 12-4 but lost in the first round to the Houston Texans.
They also lost Carr on Christmas Eve to a broken ankle. Connor Cook couldn’t get it done down in Houston. Less than a year later, head coach Jack Del Rio was relieved of his duties and in came a familiar face in Jon Gruden. Raiders owner Mark Davis was able to pry Gruden out of the Monday Night Football booth after nine years working for ESPN. He made his return to the Bay in 2018.
Still, it was another tough year. Superstar outside linebacker Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears for a pair of first-round picks before the start of the regular season. Chicago won the NFC North in Mack’s first year in the Windy City. Gruden’s first year back in Oakland resulted in a last-place finish in the AFC West.
Flash forward to this summer when the Raiders were the subject of HBO’s Hard Knocks. Gruden flexed his muscles as a former television star, while the star wide receiver he traded for in Antonio Brown was doing everything in his power to not play for Oakland. He was cut by the organization and then signed on to play one game with the New England Patriots before being released again.
Add talented-but-frustrating players in the form of linebacker Vontaze Burfict and offensive guard Richie Incognito and there was seemingly no way the Raiders were going to even sniff the playoffs.
Gruden, Carr and the rest of this motley crew had other plans.
Leaving its childhood home and current residence of Oakland permanently at season’s end will be a total tear-jerker. This city loves this team, but the Raiders don’t have the financial resources to stay in Alameda County for even one more season.
Legions of Raider Nation can trek to Las Vegas as often as they want to see the team play in its new state-of-the-art stadium, but it won’t feel the same. If there was ever a time to root for the Silver and Black, it would be this fall. The Autumn Wind is a Raider after all. This is a team that Raider Nation can be proud of. They’re taking care of business and won’t back down to anybody.
The Raiders may not be your favorite NFL team or even your second. Heck, you might be a fan of an AFC West rival of theirs and hate the Raiders with every fiber of your being. Still, this fanbase deserves to see its beloved team play one last playoff game. It doesn’t have to be in Oakland, let’s just hope that the Raiders finish the year as a top-six AFC team.
This divorce won’t be as painful as the Chargers with San Diego a few years back. You can still see your favorite team play a few hours away eight Sundays a year if you’d like. But the divorce was sadly inevitable. The NFL is a business after all.
So if your team is out of it, find it in your heart to pull for the Raiders this holiday season.
A playoff berth would be a parting gift Oakland deserves.