The Oakland Raiders lost on Thursday night to drop from the #1 seed in the AFC to second place in the AFC West. Two years ago just being this position would have seemed like lunacy.
Ten games into the 2014 season the Raiders plan was going up in flames. The team was 0-10 on the season and had lost 16 straight dating back to 2013. #5 overall draft pick Khalil Mack had just recorded his first sack. Derek Carr was averaging 207 yards a game with a 76.8 passer rating. The team’s leading rusher was Darren McFadden, averaging under 40 yards a game. Their leading receiver, James Jones, had just three touchdowns. Fellow free agent signings Justin Tuck, Maurice Jones-Drew, LaMarr Woodley, Carlos Rodgers, Tarell Brown and Antonio Smith had failed to improve the team. It was a terribly bleak situation.
GM Reggie McKenzie’s seat was red hot. Dennis Allen, after two 4-12 seasons and an 0-4 start, was fired as the team entered their bye week, and owner Mark Davis stated that McKenzie’s fate would be determined after the season.
Then a funny thing happened. The Raiders won, beating 7-3 Kansas City. Oakland went 3-3 to end the year at 3-13, with Mack notching three sacks in his last six games, Carr throwing 8 TDs to 3 INTs, and Latavius Murray averaging 74 yards a game in five games.
McKenzie survived the season, Jack Del Rio was hired to replace Allen, the team drafted Amari Cooper and signed Michael Crabtree to give Carr a weapons to throw to and invested heavily in an offensive line to protect Carr.
Improvement came rapidly. Carr threw 32 TDs and led the team to a 7-9 record in 2015, Cooper and Crabtree combined for just under 2000 yards and 15 TDs, Murray added 1300 yards from scrimmage. Now the Raiders are a sure bet for the playoffs, with the #1 seed in the AFC still a possibility. Carr is an MVP candidate, Mack a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Murray is second in rushing touchdowns and Amari Cooper is 7th in receptions and 6th in receiving yards. Less than two years since their worst season since 1962, the Raiders are having their best season since their trip to the Super Bowl in 2002.
The 2016 Eagles have their problems, but they’re far from a terrible team like the Raiders were. But like the Raiders, they’ve got their QB. Like the Raiders, they need to get him help, a strong offseason can turn the corner for the franchise. Maybe like the Raiders after a couple of seasons a coaching will be needed. Maybe Howie Roseman will deserve to be on the hot seat.
Whatever the solution is, like the Raiders it also requires a little patience.