by Austin Hegmon
The Oakland Raiders are a young team primed to make a run in the near future. Last season, the Raiders had a promising campaign that saw young franchise cornerstones Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray, and Khalil Mack contribute heavily to an overachieving Raiders team that stayed in AFC playoff contention a lot longer than the general public thought they would.
This year’s free agency period was also a success for the team. General Manager Reggie McKenzie finally debunked the biggest knock against him by luring multiple high-talent free agents to Oakland without totally breaking the bank. The Raiders are a dark horse contender for the playoffs this year and I’m extremely proud to be a member of Raider Nation.
The recent Raider success makes me almost forget that a season ago I was crying tears of joy because they won an ultimately meaningless Thursday Night Football game against the Chiefs, notching their first win in three hundred and sixty-eight days.
Or, the season before that when the Raiders were led by a rookie quarterback who didn’t know how to throw a football properly until the start of that years training camp.
Or, the season before that when I sprained a wrist punching a hole in a wall because Darren McFadden’s bones are made out of Lay’s Potato Chips. Or, the season before that when the Raiders had our best season since 2002 and still lost the AFC West to Tim Tebow.
Or… you get the point.
After losing to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders fell harder than Shane McMahon when he jumped off of the Titantron at WWE’s Backlash pay-per-view but the fall was twelve years longer.
Over the course of the next few seasons, Oakland fans were forced to watch their team trot out rosters full of irrelevant players, overpaid former Super Bowl MVPs, defensive backs who were on the team solely because they ran 4.3 second 40-yard dashes, a set of quarterbacks that could have been outperformed by Ken Stabler’s corpse, and the glimmer of hope that was Nnamdi Asomugha en route to a 15-49 record over the next four seasons.
The 2007 NFL draft was the stuff of legend. That year’s draft class boasted some of the players of an entire decade in running back Adrian Peterson, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
In addition to those three generation-defining players, 14 other first-round draft picks would become Pro Bowlers, including future fringe Hall of Famers Patrick Willis and Marshawn Lynch.
Oakland, by virtue of winning two games that year, secured first dibs on the player that was going to lead the Raider resurgence.
Al Davis took this guy instead.
That night in 2007 kicked off what seemed like football fan Hell for me. Sunday after Sunday I had to watch JaMarcus Russell lead his Oakland cronies to 28 point loss after 28 point loss while making over $100,000 per completed pass.
Monday after Monday, I had go to middle school prepared to face an onslaught of jokes and laughter from Atlanta Falcons fans who that year had watched their head coach resign via a 78 word letter.
Year after year, Al Davis and the Raiders would further their new mottos of “Commitment to Mediocrity” and “Just Win, Maybe” by adding an assortment of players and coaches that coincidentally didn’t add anything to the team.
Jason Campbell was advertised as the hope of the team. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour munched up Raider salary cap money, putting them in salary cap Hell for years. Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson’s (not the one you’re thinking of (nope, not that one either)) pass interference calls lead the 2010 Raiders to the record books as the most penalized team of all time.
Rolando McClain got arrested constantly before retiring to get away from Oakland, and the biggest numbers Darrius Heyward-Bey put up during his time with the team were on the breathalyzer. The Raiders couldn’t even fix this problem through the draft either because they traded all their draft picks away.
The O.co Collesium hadn’t been upgraded since its construction during the Byzantine era and the fan base had been reduced from the fearsome “Black Hole” to a small set of delusional, drunken, overweight men dressed up like a bottom-tier ECW tag team.
The Oakland Raiders had truly become the Ming Dynasty of awful football.
Thank God for the future.