According to the national media and nearly everyone outside of Oakland, the Raiders are the worst team in the NFL, mired in a decade-long slump and once again in the so-called “rebuilding” process that stands for “we suck but we’re just calling it a ‘rebuild’ to keep everyone’s hopes up.”
Ask Raiders fans though, and they’ll say all that talk is nothing but a pile of baloney.
I found this out the hard way when I posted an article quoting and agreeing with NFL.com’s Greg Rosenthal, who called the Raiders’ linebacker group and defensive line the worst at their respective positions in the league. I called the Raiders’ free agent signings “scabs,” meant only to plug up holes until the rebuilding process is completed.
That ignited a firestorm of reaction from Raider Nation, with the comments pouring in, angry at the negativity of the piece.
“I am done reading your very always negative articles, ” said one reader. “This is the start of a new season, so why don’t you stop writing all this negative BS about the Raiders.”
Other comments ranged from me being “always down about the Raiders” to calling me a “s— writer” who constantly dishes out “hate on the Raiders.”
Ok, I get it.
Raiders fans are tired of getting this kind of treatment. They are tired of losing miserably for over a decade. They are tired of being ranked among the worst teams in the league year-after-year, and they are tired of the media fanning the flames with their pessimistic articles.
This year is no exception. The season is far from starting and here is what the mainstream media has already offered about the Raiders:
- Worst odds to win the Super Bowl at 200/1, according to Pregame.com.
- Worst starting quarterback in the AFC West as ranked by ESPN’s Bill Williamson.
- Worst linebacker group and defensive line in the NFL, according to NFL.com’s Greg Rosenthal.
- Worst wide receiver group in the NFL, Rosenthal wrote in a separate article.
- Likely to have the worst record in the NFL and pick first in the 2014 draft, says Jeff Risdon of RealGM.
I could have included about 10 more articles on the same note, but you get the point. The Raiders are nothing but a laughingstock to the casual fan and the national media, who do not hesitate to point out the lack of success in Oakland.
However, how they are perceived by the diehard fans that make up Raider Nation is completely different from the national consensus.
The main reason for this? Look no further than the popular ideal of the “new regime.”
Fans believe that GM Reggie McKenzie — who has been handed the tall task of taking over for the late Al Davis — has made all the right moves since taking over at the helm in January of 2012.
Instead of following Davis’ “win-now” strategy of signing players to questionable lucrative contracts (Stanford Routt) and trading away prime draft picks for former stars on the decline (Richard Seymour), McKenzie took a page out of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane’s Moneyball book.
Severely limited by the expensive moves made by Davis and the “old regime,” McKenzie cleared up cap space by releasing the likes of Seymour, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Huff, and Tommy Kelly.
He let Shane Lechler, his superstar punter, walk away and sign a multi-year deal with the Houston Texans. Comparably, Beane has lost stars such as Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada to free agency in the past.
Again, like Beane, McKenzie utilized the free agent market to sign players at a low price on short-term deals, such as Josh Cribbs, Pat Sims, and Vance Walker. Beane brought in Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge last season for a bargain, and they wound up being huge producers for the A’s in their unexpected playoff run.
Last, but certainly not least, the A’s were counted as down and out before the start of the 2011-2012 season. So-called experts predicted them to lose at least 100 games with a roster full of misfits: minor leaguers and washed-up veterans. Yet somehow, they found a way to rally in the second half of the season, winning the AL West in stunning fashion and nearly advancing to the AL Championship Series.
We could be seeing a similar optimistic fate in the Raiders, who nearly everyone believes will be among the worst franchises in the league next season.
Well, everyone except for their fans, that is.