Last offseason, I was ready to crown the Oakland Raiders. I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion, as there was plenty of reason to expect them to be among the league’s elite teams in 2017. Derek Carr was a stud, and he had two great receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to throw to.
The team lured Marshawn Lynch out of retirement at running back, and on the defensive side of the ball, Khalil Mack reigns supreme. There was every reason to expect they’d win the AFC West, and do some serious damage in the playoffs.
Instead, the Raiders finished the season with the same record as the San Francisco 49ers, a team that was winless through nine weeks of the season. I’ve seen many Raiders fans on my Twitter feed talking about how ludicrous it is that the Raiders finished with the same record. It’s the popular thing to point to for them to illustrate how bad a season it was for them.
And it makes sense — they had every right to be excited about where the team is going. I personally am not a fan of the Raiders, obviously, but I do often think the NFL is a more interesting place when the Raiders are good. They were not good in 2017, not by a longshot.
Now we’re in an offseason where the Raiders have fired head coach Jack Del Rio (a middling coach who probably doesn’t deserve the can after such a short stint, but the team obviously had a target in mind in Jon Gruden) and enter the offseason proper with many hyping up Jimmy Garoppolo as the best quarterback from the 2014 NFL Draft, the same place Carr came from.
I have no idea what to expect of Gruden, who signed a massive contract to finally return to coaching football because Mark Davis absolutely had to have him. I tend to think Carr will bounce back and be fine, but for now, it’s an interesting situation the Raiders are in.
And of course, it gets more interesting — or maybe less interesting, really — given that the 49ers and Raiders are battling for the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. A coin toss during the NFL Combine in February will determine which of the two teams, which have identical records and strength of schedule numbers, get to pick at No. 9 and which has to pick at No. 10. They will alternate with the Miami Dolphins, who also finished at 6-10, throughout the draft.
It’s absurd that a coin toss factors into something so important, but it’s also dumb in the way that this past season has been. It’s hard to get upset about it. It’s kind of perfect, really. I have no idea what the 49ers or Raiders will look like in 2018. But hopefully the 49ers can win the dumb coin toss and get an impact player in the first round.