A rocky start for the Las Vegas Raiders this season leads to a comeback nobody saw coming

A rocky start for the Las Vegas Raiders this season leads to a comeback nobody saw coming

The previous three years have not been kind to the Las Vegas Raiders. After the organization’s bold decision to move the team from its 24-year home in Oakland to Las Vegas, it has sadly been on a downward spiral ever since.

After looking at all the atrocities from this season for the Raiders, this season may surprisingly have given birth to a brand new team—one that could have some real success in the future.

In the pre-season, the Raiders and Jon Gruden had one goal for the entire year; make the playoffs. After being hired in 2018 as head coach, every one of John Gruden’s seasons has ended in disappointment. This year was his last chance; he was on the hot seat if he didn’t make the playoffs.

The season started off exciting with what was then the game of the year against the Baltimore Ravens. A clutch field goal from Daniel Carlson took the game to overtime, where Zay Jones ended the game with a 50-yard touchdown bomb to win 33-27.

Week Two and Three showed that Week One wasn’t a fluke, with wins over the Steelers and the Dolphins, although the scores were a little closer than most fans would have wanted. Then, unfortunately, the first loss of the season came at the hands of Justin Herbert and the Chargers in Week Four.

After the week four loss, the season’s downfall began. Emails sent from head coach Jon Gruden were leaked to the public, with multiple racist and homophobic statements made. Before going up against the Bears, he decided that it would be his last game before retiring.

Taking over for Gruden would be longtime coordinator Rich Bisaccia. He started off on the right foot with a win over the Broncos and the Eagles. But in the bye week that followed, more tragedy struck the Raiders. Star receiver and first-round pick Henry Ruggs Ⅲ was involved in a car crash, where he was found to be driving under the influence and hit another car, killing the driver. He was officially released from the team on November 2. Less than a week later, rookie cornerback Damon Arnette was released in response to a disturbing video was found of him threatening someone with a gun.

The entire team took a hit—both in talent and morale—with the loss of Ruggs. Once back from the bye week, the team went on an 0-3 run, losing to the Giants, the Chiefs, and the Bengals. The losing streak ended on Thanksgiving, with a 36-33 overtime win over the Cowboys off the toes of Daniel Carlson. The following week saw a close loss against Washington, and sadly, a blowout loss against the Chiefs.

Playoff hopes for the Raiders were almost dead. It was a long shot, but they would have to win every remaining game and rely on other teams from around the league to do their jobs. The first game of four to make the playoffs matched the Raiders against the Browns, where they narrowly escaped with a win 16-14. The next game was against the Broncos, again barely winning, 17-13.

The second to last game of the regular season was in Indianapolis against the Colts, and I was actually present for the game. A close game throughout, with numerous highlights, including Hunter Renfrow’s standout performance and Jonathan Taylor’s breaking the Colts record for the most rushing yards in the organization’s history. The game came down to an overtime battle, where Hunter Renfrow made a diving catch to set up Daniel Carlson for yet another game-winning field goal. The game ended 23-20 and left only the Chargers in the Raiders’ way.

It was possibly the most confusing setup of all time; the Steelers won their game against the Ravens. Because of the Steelers’ win, if the Raiders won, it would mean they and the Steelers would make the playoffs. If the Chargers were to win, they would make it along with the Steelers. If the Chargers and Raiders were to tie, they would both make the playoffs, and the Steelers wouldn’t.

For the fourth time this season, the game went into overtime. The Raiders had possession and could easily have knelt the clock out to end the game as a tie. Instead, they took a risk and sent Daniel Carlson in to attempt a game-winning kick in the final seconds for the fifth time this season. Interestingly enough, Rich Bisaccia was the first interim coach to lead a team to the playoffs in 60 years.

Week one of the playoffs saw the Raiders match up with the Bengals. If anyone has been recently paying attention to the Super Bowl, you know how this game went. In the game’s final two minutes, the Bengals pulled ahead to win 26-19.

On the surface, this season may have seemed like an embarrassment, but taking a closer look, there may be more positives than negatives.

First off, they still made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Second, losing Jon Gruden may not have been the worst thing possible. Rumors were already spreading about him being fired soon, and he hadn’t led the team anywhere near where the owners wanted. Third, while losing Ruggs was a bad hit to the offense, they still retained Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Maxx Crosby. The culmination of all that young talent could make for an exciting team in the coming years, not to mention any talented rookies they will pick up in the offseason.

It may not have been pretty, but there is no doubt that the Raiders are not out of the discussion for playoffs next season, and who knows, they might just bounce back even better than before.