Oakland Raiders are the oldest team in the league — so what?

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Quarterback EJ Manuel #3 (2nd from right) and offensive guard Marshall Newhouse #73 (R) of the Oakland Raiders stand atteneded with teamamtes for the national anthem before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 12, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 20-10. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Quarterback EJ Manuel #3 (2nd from right) and offensive guard Marshall Newhouse #73 (R) of the Oakland Raiders stand atteneded with teamamtes for the national anthem before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 12, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 20-10. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders, having shuffled the roster this offseason are officially the oldest team in the NFL this season, prompting the question – so what?

With the 53-man rosters set, and all of the calculations done, it has been confirmed that the Oakland Raiders have the NFL’s oldest roster.

To hear some of the media talking heads tell it, the Raiders will be rolling with the likes of Methuselah and Yoda manning key positions this season. To hear some tell it, the Raiders are going to be running a team out on the field who rely on canes, walkers, motorized scooters to get around, and where adult diapers will replace jock straps as standard issue gear.

And while we won’t go so far as to start screaming #FakeNews about it, we will say, for the most part, the average age statistic is one that’s largely overblown.

Jon Gruden made a lot of waves – and raised a lot of eyebrows – this offseason by bringing in so many veteran players as he turned over a roster that has done very little, in a very long time.

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The team didn’t quite have the strong core of veteran leadership in place that may well have helped mitigate the dysfunction that crippled the team last year, en route to a terribly underachieving 6-10 season, only a year after going 12-4, and earning a postseason berth.

Seriously, if there’s one metric that’s fairly useless in determining the overall healthy and effectiveness of a team, it’s the average age – which is only slightly behind strength of schedule in terms of uselessness.

And yet, we hear about it ad nauseam. Every. Single. Year.

There are guys over 30 who can still ball out. There are guys under 25 who shouldn’t have been drafted in the first place. And there are plenty of guys in between who fall somewhere between one end of that spectrum and the other.

Folks in some corners right now, are making hay of the fact that Oakland checks in with the NFL’s “oldest” roster, coming in at an average of 27.4 years old. Positively ancient, right?

To illustrate the ridiculousness of the folks banging on Oakland for having such a decrepit old, worn out, broken down roster, look no further than Khalil Mack, who was just traded away, whom every analyst on the planet will tell you he’s, “just entering his prime.”

And how old is Mack? Yeah, he’s 27.

For those who want to parse the numbers to death – and there are always those folk – Oakland’s starting offense has an average of 28.6 years. The starting defense has an average age of 29.8 years.

Obviously, for anybody stressing about Oakland’s “old” roster checking in at 27.4 years old, those two numbers certainly aren’t going to help ease your mind any.

light. Also Read. Looking At The Pros And Cons Of Dealing Mack

But, if you’re going to parse the numbers, don’t stop there. On the offensive side of the ball, of the 11 starters, there are only four over the age of 30 – Donald Penn (35), Jordy Nelson (33), Marshawn Lynch (32), and Jared Cook (31).

Penn has been one of the best tackles in football for the last few years – though, we’ll have to wait and see how he adjusts to life on the right side of the line. Nelson has to prove last year was an anomaly, and had more to do with having Brett Hundley throwing him the ball, and less with his age – he is showing signs of being able to thrive in Gruden’s system already though.

Cook has proven to be effective, though they should utilize him down in the red zone more. And Lynch showed us last season that he still has plenty left in the tank, running over, around, and through people – and with a true blocking fullback who can blow people up in Keith Smith (26), Lynch should be primed for a good season.

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On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders are rolling out just two defenders age 30-plus – Bruce Irvin (30), and Derrick Johnson (35). Irvin is Irvin, and we know what he brings to the table, and that he plays at a very high level still.

Though Johnson is admittedly, a little long in the tooth, and not as explosive as he once was, he’s still reliable against the run, and he’s had a hand in turning Marquel Lee – who looked primed to be Cory James 2.0 – into the formidable linebacker GM Reggie McKenzie thought he was drafting last season. Expect Lee, who was the highest rated linebacker through the preseason to make a big contribution to the team this year.

But, if you’re scoring at home, that’s only six – count them, six – players, out of twenty-two starters, who are over the age of 30 – and most of them have proven they are still very capable of being impact players.

Maybe, we’re defining the phrase “old” differently, but that doesn’t necessarily seem like an old team. Seems more like a team that’s still relatively young, but has a few grizzled vets sprinkled in to add a little toughness, character, and some veteran leadership that was sorely lacking last season.

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders /

Las Vegas Raiders

Let’s take this a step further though, and really illustrate just how ridiculous the hand-wringing, pearl-clutching about the average age of Oakland’s roster is, shall we?

Just for fun, we looked up a couple of teams the talking heads can’t say enough good things about, and are roundly trumpeted as the top two contenders to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year – New England and Pittsburgh.

For those of you scoring at home, the average age of New England’s starting offense is officially – 28.2 years old. And the average age of New England’s starting defense is – the same 28.6 years the Raiders are.

So, riddle us this – why is it that the Patriots and Steelers are considered powerhouses and the class of the AFC, when their starting offenses average a respective 28.2, and 28.6 years old – and yet, at 28.6 years, the Raiders are just considered “old.”

Why is that?

It’s because it doesn’t fit the narrative being pushed by some in various corners of the sports media world – that narrative being that Gruden, having spent so long away from the sidelines, has come back as an out of touch, wild-eyed crazyman, hellbent on taking the game of football back to the Stone Age, and loading up the Oakland roster with geriatric talent.

To be fair though, let’s also not forget how we got to this point – very poor drafting by McKenzie. The Raiders’ GM has been making the draft picks since 2012 – yet, this team has precious few of his draft picks still on the roster.

Aside from that stellar 2014 class, which netted him Carr, Khalil Mack, and Gabe Jackson – something McKenzie has been dining out on since then – his draft record is very poor, and still young talent who should be the foundation of this roster, have been traded away, shipped off, or just plain cut.

It’s pretty safe to say that had McKenzie drafted better over his tenure, Gruden wouldn’t have had to bring in his crop of senior citizens. Those young guys could have developed into the veteran leaders the team needs today.

But, McKenzie made poor choices, and now, Gruden is looking at building the team through the Draft, from the ground up. And as much as all of us hated to see Khalil Mack go, the two first-rounders plus, the Raiders got in the deal, are going to help with that effort.

Next. A Few Points To Coping With The Grief In A Post-Mack World. dark

Just because a team is more veteran than another doesn’t guarantee they’ll have success. Conversely, just because a team is younger than another doesn’t guarantee they’ll have success either. Age has far less to do with a team’s success than preparation and execution do.

Which is what makes the hand-wringing and pearl-clutching over a team’s average age sort of ridiculous – it doesn’t mean all that much, in the grand scheme of things.

It’s not Oakland’s age that will determine their fate this season – it’s how they adapt to a new coach, and a new scheme. If they master it, they could put themselves in a very good spot this year.

And if they fail, it’s not going to be because of their age.