Some people are fans of the Las Vegas Raiders. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Las Vegas Raiders. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: The Raiders. If you say that name the way Chris Berman jokingly does, I will sneak into your home while you’re asleep and spray the bottom of your shower with WD-40.
Your 2021 record: 10-7. Here’s a team that started off 5-2, dropped all the way down to 6-7, and then ripped off four straight wins to end their season and make the playoffs. Under a temporary head coach, no less. From a pure football standpoint, the Raiders were one of the best stories in the NFL a year ago. Let’s see how that story ended.
I may have omitted certain … details … when mentioning this team’s heroic ascent out of the midseason abyss. The whole reason the Raiders were in such a rough predicament to begin with was because of this:
In the emails, (Jon) Gruden called the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, a “faggot” and a “clueless anti football pussy” and said that Goodell should not have pressured Jeff Fisher, then the coach of the Rams, to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, a gay player chosen by the team in 2014.
Ah yes, that famously anti-football guy Roger Goodell. Sabotages the NFL at every turn, he does. I thought that Jon Gruden couldn’t have been any more of a laughingstock back when the Raiders signed him to a 10-year contract in 2018—a contract that he had no chance of making look like a bargain. Then again, I thought a lot of unjustifiably nice things about the Raiders not too long ago. I thought they’d cultivate a decent fanbase in their new hometown. I thought they’d have kick-ass pregame hype ceremonies. I thought that employing the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL was pretty neat of them. I failed to account for the whole “They’re the Raiders” part of the equation, but the Raiders certainly didn’t. Sure, Jon Gruden is a racist blockhead … BUT!
Glad to know he still loves football. Let’s now explore how deeply uncool this team proved to be before their stillborn playoff run.
Even though Vegas started off 3-0, they still had to come back from 14 points down in two of those games just to have a chance. In one of those games, they also prematurely celebrated a touchdown and then immediately threw a red-zone interception. They got killed by a Bears team that passed for a whopping 34 yards in the second half. They got swept by Kansas City by a combined score of 89-23. They lost to the Giants, which is damnable without me having to go into specifics. They lost to Washington at the gun, on a game-winner from a kicker that the Commanders had just picked up off up the street. They also refused to tie the Chargers in the final week of the season and I’ll never forgive them for it.
But all of that is pretty standard, on-field fuckery for any merely adequate NFL team. Off the field is where things really got unpleasant, even without Gruden’s assistance.
Henry Ruggs killed a woman and a dog in that accident. Cornerback Damon Arnette was real-deal released after threatening to real-deal kill people. Because you can’t leave this team merely for being bad at your job. You have to kill a someone, or drive 156 mph with a gallon of tequila sloshing around in your tummy, or brandish your assault rifle like you just unboxed a new PS5, or make jokes about De Smith that even Andrew Dice Clay would leave on the cutting room floor:
“Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of michellin tires,” Gruden wrote about Smith in the exchange.
Incredible wordplay. Adam Carolla wants to know where Dong Loseden here gets all of his material. Anyway, Gruden was the victim—and do I ever use that word charitably—of a possible Dan Snyder smear campaign that makes Burn After Reading look like a documentary. And you’re not gonna believe this, but Gruden hardly confined his comedy gold to decade-old emails to a former crony. Turns out he’s been a clumsy, racist dipshit his whole life. Who could have guessed, except for literally everyone.
After Gruden’s emails became public, the “michellin” tires on his career blew out and the Raiders were forced to replace him with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who went 7-5 in his place, including a four-game win streak to end the regular season. Bisaccia might have even won his first playoff game had the refs in Cincinnati not done this:
Do you know how hard it is to get NFL officials to overlook an inadvertent whistle? These refs LIVE to cite inadvertent whistles to cancel out kick-ass plays. These guys would have annulled my wedding with an inadvertent whistle if they had been given the chance. In fact, I believe that at least half of all inadvertent whistles aren’t inadvertent at all. In this game, the Bengals scored on the most flagrant inadvertent whistle you’ll ever hear and the refs were still like, “Eh, let’s count it anyway.”
And yet, Bisaccia did more with this team in just a handful of months than Gruden had throughout his entire second tenure with the Raiders. If you go by winning percentage—which I will here, because it’s convenient—Rich Bisaccia was best coach Vegas has had since Tom Flores. Making him the permanent head coach not only would have been wise from a football standpoint, but also from a karma standpoint. But when you’re the Raiders, karma is for anti-football Demmycrats. You spit in karma’s face, and then you go out and hire this man …
Your coach: Oh it’s on.
I was excited back when the Colts hired Josh McDaniels to burn their franchise to the ground, but this is even BETTER. How will Josh McDaniels alienate everyone this time around? Will he cut players for noticing his emerging double chin? Will he chew out reporters for parking in his spot? Will he draft Kynzee Tebow? Yes, yes, and yes.
The Raiders have always been decades behind every other NFL team, so it makes sense that they would hire McDaniels and new GM Dave Ziegler to do the whole “Let’s be the Patriots!” thing that nine other teams (not hyperbole) attempted and failed to do, including one that hired Josh McDaniels already. Does this organization even know what cell phones are yet? Does their practice facility have fucking running water? Is that stupid Al Davis flame their only source of light and heat? When this team moved to Vegas, they decided to cut out all of the “rise” part of any rise-and-fall Vegas story and just go directly to losing everything by putting all of their money on the Don’t Pass bar. Matt Patricia lasted longer in Detroit than Josh McDaniels did in Denver. That’s the kind of doomed wager we’re dealing with here.
And maybe you’re thinking to yourself, McDaniels’s Denver years were a long time ago. He’s probably learned from his mistakes. This assumes that former Pats assistants believe can they make mistakes, which is like assuming that Jon Gruden has an IQ above room temperature. The only time that Bill Belichick disciples prosper is when they’re working for Bill Belichick. Untethered from the greatest coach in NFL history, they display all of the ability that a drunken Henry Ruggs does behind the wheel of a Corvette Stingray. And McDaniels wasn’t exactly a brainiac back in New England, either. Again, we turn to Football Outsiders to make that point glaring:
McDaniels has been a head coach or offensive coordinator for 16 seasons, but only six of them have been non-Tom Brady seasons. In four of those seasons, his offense was below average in both DVOA and points scored.
Fuck this guy. I hope he eats that visor.
Your quarterback: Derek Carr, who’ll get you 4,000 yards a season without anything to show for it. That didn’t stop the Raiders from handing Carr a fat contract extension, because overpaying this man to win you nine games is the only way that owner Mark Davis knows how to save face. Carr is a mid quarterback, and I dare say there’s a large enough sample size to predict that he’ll remain precisely that. Forever. Matt Ryan has had a more accomplished career, and I’d rather watch Gruden do a set at the Comedy Cellar than watch that guy’s highlight reel.
What’s new that sucks: Like the Dolphins, the Raiders saw their team barely overachieve a year ago and were like, We’re Super Bowl contenders now! So they stuffed all of their best draft picks into the back of an ’82 Lincoln and sent them to Green Bay in exchange for wideout Davante Adams, who not only wanted to come to Vegas but actively demanded it. Adams is the best wideout in the NFL, but clearly not the shrewdest. Charlie Sheen has made better life choices than this man. Because Jon Gruden almost certainly wasn’t an outlier in the Vegas front office:
“Mark [Davis] created a hostile work environment and engaged in other potential misconduct caused me grave concern,” Ventrelle said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “When Mark was confronted about these issues he was dismissive and did not demonstrate the warranted level of concern…. Soon thereafter, I was fired in retaliation.”
You don’t get routinely out-maneuvered by Dan Snyder without being exactly like him. And yet, the Raiders are gonna plow ahead anyway as if nothing is wrong. They traded for Adams. They signed an aging Chandler Jones. They gave out fat extensions to edge rusher Maxx Crosby and wideout Hunter Renfrow. They traded Yannick Ngakoue for corner Rock Ya-Sin. Almost as if they’re indulging in a … what’s the word I’m thinking of? Oh yes, a binge. And binging never has any consequences to it! Did Liberace himself not say, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful?” And that guy’s life ended as happily as anyone can ask for!
Mike Mayock was fired. Kenyan Drake got sent packing. John Madden died after being run over by his own Maddencruiser. True story.
What has always sucked: Raiders owner Mark Davis, who apparently doesn’t know that bellhops exist, makes what little money he has by pretending that his team still has a loyal following. But the Raiders don’t have any fucking fans anymore. They haven’t had any fans since 1994. People who attend Raiders home games now are German tourists who walked into the stadium thinking they’ve been comped free tickets to a Penn & Teller show. And every Raiders lifer is a 67-year-old meth enthusiast living in LA who stages Altamont reenactments every other weekend. There’s no fanbase here. There’s certainly no mystique. There’s only Mark Davis, lugging his grade-school diorama assignment around from league meeting to league meeting, praying for a way out before one of his own players knifes him to death in a casino bathroom.
Alex Leatherwood was somehow an even worse draft choice than Arnette and Ruggs were.
Ratto says: The Raiders finished with a point differential that suggested they should have finished 7-10, marking their seventh consecutive season of not underachieving. And yet it all feels so unfulfilling given that they have lost their only two playoff games since the 2002 Super Bowl and that the defense has allowed more than 30 points 70 times in 177 games. Trust your eyes, not your calculator.
What might not suck: To his credit, McDaniels has assembled a talented coaching staff nearly free of New England mustiness. There’s no real harm in talking yourself into the man. As of this writing, MGM has the Raiders listed at +4000 to win the Super Bowl. Why not take a chance? Bet the deed to your house on McDaniels and you could end up with 40 houses, all of them quite tasteful. Can’t you see it happening? Doesn’t it feel more like an inevitability than a possibility? Go on. Do it. Free money is waiting for you. Don’t be a sucker and miss out. You’ll never forgive yourself.
HEAR IT FROM RAIDERS FANS!
If anyone says “Patriots Nation” or “Colts Nation” or whatever, you can count on screaming and crying from Raiders fans. A poorly photoshopped picture of Ice Cube will follow. I promise you it will say, “THERE IS ONLY ONE NATION….. BITCH!…” carefully watermarked by @MiDWeSt_RAiDeR_291.
We answered some big questions in the offseason, namely: “Could there be a more gimmicky coaching hire than Jon Gruden?”
One of the most beloved figures in team history revealed himself to be a racist asshat, and it was somehow the best thing to happen to the team in at least two decades.
Mark Davis looks like a really old Nick Swardson.
I threw the equivalent of a Super Bowl party for Wild Card weekend last year, because the Raiders had made the playoffs. I knew they had no chance considering how they got there, but still bought beer, smoked some pork, had people come over, and had a great time. Then I dropped to my knees when Derek Carr threw a pass short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal. To Zay Jones.
I remember being really happy when Rolando McClain was drafted.
The Raiders are an experiment in how many times a guy can get a concussion from repeatedly hitting his glass ceiling.
This new coaching staff exudes a bland professionalism sorely needed here. The roster is full of true pros. We now feature a legit star WR. The game has slowed down for our formerly skittish QB. We found a pass rush.
Having said that, there is absolutely no way this team finishes higher than fourth in the AFC West.
Five years ago, Obi Melifonwu was the Raiders No. 2 pick, 56th overall, ahead of Cooper Kupp, Juju Smith-Schuster, Alvin Kamara, Chris Godwin and George Kittle, to name but a few. Today he was an 18th-round USFL pick for the Tampa Bay Bandits, a league and a team I assume will have dissolved by the time WYTS rolls around for next season. The talent evaluation for this team sucks, always has and always will. Obi Melifonwu over Cooper Kupp. Jesus jaywalking Christ.
As a Vegas Golden Knights season ticket holder, I happen to pass by Mark Davis a few times a season in the concourse as I am going to grab a beer or whatever. I can confirm that his appearance, especially his haircut, is as absurd of a spectacle in person as you imagine it to be.
When I was eight years old, I chose to follow my mum’s side of the family in sports and support Scotland. Since then, I have spent two decades being absolutely fucking miserable every time Scotland play. I’ve watched us be robbed by the refs. I’ve watched us put in displays so incompetent I’m fairly certain I could have done better. I’ve had my heart broken over and over again until there’s nothing left except a gaping hole where it used to be.
It is still a substantially more fulfilling and positive experience than supporting the sodding Raiders. I first got into the NFL about five years ago and chose the Raiders because they seemed cool. In that time, the following things have happened:
Our insurrection-supporting head coach alienated the entire team to the point that the offensive line collectively chose to let our QB get murdered.
We appointed Jon Gruden as our head coach.
We were surprised when Jon Gruden turned out to be a disaster.
We were surprised when Jon Gruden also turned out to be a terrible human being.
We traded Khalil goddamn Mack to the Bears in return for picks which became a perpetually injured RB, a moron who got cut after less than 18 months following multiple driving accidents, drugs and assault charges, and threatening someone’s life on bloody Instagram, and a receiver who we traded for pennies after two years because he thinks a football game only starts in the fourth quarter.
We drafted a whole boatload of other busts, including an RB convert who couldn’t play RB, a safety whose primary skillset is injuring himself and his teammates, and a murderer.
We made it to the playoffs and took the Bengals to the very last play, only for our OC to call a passing concept which had our only two receiving threats 10 yards from the fucking goal-line whilst Carr had to throw the ball to Zay Jones in double coverage.
We drafted a tackle in the first round who, one year later, is getting training camp reps with the third string offensive line.
I regularly have to wake up at 1am on a Monday morning to watch all of this nonsense.
The Raiders have sucked so profoundly, and for so long, that they have caused me to suck as well. Because there has been so little to get excited about during my adulthood, I have started to root for not only the owner, but for the dead owner. My brain is so rotten from this team that I think Mark Davis is an OK guy who’s just not up to the task and that Al Davis would have signed Kaepernick as a bold fuck you to the NFL.
I’m glad Gruden got got.
Here is a little history of my last five years before that playoff berth (to help this story, I will mention I’m a 48-year-old brown person whose parents are Muslim, and I live in NYC).
2016: Trump wins the election. On Christmas Eve, Derek Carr breaks his foot and the Raiders’ first winning season since 2002 is now all for nothing.
2017: October 1st. My birthday. I’m in Vegas during the shooting.
2018: I have to put down my dog of 15 years.
2019: I find out, at age 46, that I need heart surgery.
2020: COVID hits and I can’t do my rehab because of it. In November, my cousin falls into a coma at age 24 and is hanging on by a thread.
2021: My other dog starts to lose the use of his legs.
March 2022: My cousin comes out of the hospital, but they had to cut off both of her legs.
July 2022: My other dog has to be put down. I’m finally broken at this point.
December 12th: I get COVID. I’m tired. I’m beaten. The raiders have choked away another season. I have no strength left.
December 20th: The raiders barely beat a clearly sick Browns team and win their last four games, including the last game in OT to make the playoffs!!!
Does this make up for the past five years? No, it doesn’t.
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