Oakland Raiders: Triplets Rankings A Study In Head Scratching Logic

Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrate after combining on a touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrate after combining on a touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders have real firepower at most of their key skill positions, but according to one sports writer, they still rank in the lower half of the NFL – here is why that’s ridiculous.

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Oakland Raiders fans – like fans of every other NFL team – are mired in a soul crushing drought. With summer officially upon us and the temperatures in many parts soaring – not to mention OTA’s and minicamps now over – we have entered the part of the year where actual, legitimate football-related news is as hard to come by as a bottle of water in the Mojave.

But fear not, sports fans. Intrepid sports writers like ESPN’s Bill Barnwell are on the scene to provide you some relief – not in the form of actual news and information, but in the form of stories they’ve made up completely out of whole cloth. You have to hand it to Barnwell though, if nothing else, his recent article got people talking, debating, and calling each other names again.

And for a lot of football fans out there, that sort of name-calling, trash-talking and insult-hurling rivalry is familiar and is somehow – oddly comforting.

The subject of the current debate raging over the Internet is about the idea of which team has the best set of offensive “triplets.” Blame the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s for the idea of “triplets” becoming a thing in the first place. Those teams – led by the three headed bast that was Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin – formed a dynasty that captured three Super Bowl titles in a four year span (1992, 1993, 1995).

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So, in light of the news drought we’re all struggling through, Barnwell took the idea of offensive “triplets” and ran with it, ranking each team’s three headed best worst to first.

It comes as little surprise that the Cleveland Browns came in dead last with their “triplets” being comprised of Robert Griffin III, Corey Coleman, and Gary Barnidge. Let’s face it, there isn’t much all that inspiring about the Browns – now, if they got Lebron to put on a helmet and pads…

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What some Raiders fans have taken note of – and exception to – is that Barnwell slotted the Raiders’ “triplets” comprised of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree 18th in the league. 18Th – let that soak in for a moment.

While this isn’t to say that Barnwell is necessarily wrong, this is to say that he’s not exactly right, either.

Based on last season’s performance, it’s easy to see why Barnwell may have slotted them more in the middle of the pack. Though dynamic and electric at times, the Raiders offense was inconsistent. Too many promising drives that stalled out. Too many three and outs. And a pretty sub-par third down conversion rate (39.1%) that put them in the lower half of the league.

The Raiders have the pieces to absolutely electric and put a lot of big numbers in the stat books, but to fulfill that promise, they need to learn to be more consistent. A lot more consistent.

However – in terms of Barnwell’s ranking, there are some real glaring problem areas.

This is not to argue – too strenuously – with Barnwell’s rankings. But there are some very clear question marks in his rankings. First of all, he has the Dallas Cowboys’ triumvirate of Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant slotted sixth. Seriously?

There is no question that Bryant has proven himself to be a big time player. Some would undoubtedly argue that Romo has as well – though for many others, the jury is still very much out on that. But then to add in Elliott, who has yet to take a single snap as a professional – combine the three, and pronounce them the sixth best set of “triplets” in the entire NFL?

Oakland Raiders
Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Yes, big things are expected of Elliott. Many have proclaimed him the second coming and are already getting his bust in Canton ready. It might be a bit of an antiquated idea, but shouldn’t we wait to see how he performs on an NFL stage before slapping him with the GOAT label? After all, big things were expected of Melvin Gordon when the Chargers drafted him 15th overall and suffice to say, he hasn’t exactly lived up to that sort of billing.

And speaking of San Diego, Barnwell also slots the Chargers – with their “triplets” consisting of Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen – well ahead of the Raiders at number 14. Rivers has proven very capable of doing a whole lot without much of anything to work with. And Allen has proven himself to be a stud receiver.

But Gordon has yet to prove his ability to be a big time performer. His 641 yards on 184 carries isn’t exactly electric running. He didn’t exactly light up the Chargers offense and help it soar to new heights.

Oh, San Diego’s offense put up some pretty decent numbers, to be sure. With just a tick under 372 yards per game, the Chargers moved the ball pretty well. The problem with San Diego’s offense – and the reason Barnwell’s slotting of them at is beyond ridiculous – is because they simply couldn’t finish.

San Diego was 26th in scoring offense with a meager 20 points per game. The Raiders on the other hand, were slightly better (18th) with 22.4 points per game. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in scoring for both teams, but there was enough of a distinction to allow the Raiders to go 7-9, while the Chargers finished 4-12.

Apparently, the ability to put the ball in the endzone even a touch more frequently than the Chargers did can make a big difference. And really, isn’t that the entire goal of the offense – “triplets” included – to put the ball in the endzone and points on the board? It would seem to many that one offense who does that even slightly more frequently than another should earn the higher ranking.

But then, there goes that whole “logic” thing getting in the way again — and in this NFL dry season, logic doesn’t necessarily apply.

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This isn’t to argue that the Raiders should have been slotted a lot higher than they were. Their inconsistency limited their effectiveness as a unit and put them in the middle of the pack in most categories. But they most certainly should be slotted ahead of certain other teams.

There is a lot to take issue with in regard to Barnwell’s rankings. There are some things that just don’t add up or make sense. But then, that wasn’t really the point to his article – to make sense. It was simply to fill the void and to keep people talking. And in that sense, Barnwell was absolutely on point.