All too often these days, teams are having roller coaster seasons. That is dangerous. And it makes it dangerous for fans.
Like everything in life, the NFL is cyclical. Every team has ups and downs. They’ve all had glory days and, conversely, they’ve had their dark ages. So looking at the Raiders’ recent success, it’s difficult not to think that the year of the fourth Lombardi trophy is fast approaching. But without a few years of consistency, hopes shouldn’t soar too high.
Looking at the Derek Carr and Khalil Mack era, there have been three very different seasons. The pair came out of one of the best draft classes of this century, but going to one of the worst teams in the league seemed like the beginning of the end for the two young stars. It was quite the opposite. They were made focal points of the offense and defense, and the team was built around them. Or should we say rebuilt.
After a tragic 3-13 rookie year, the pair hit a stride in 2015 and finished 7-9 under new head coach Jack Del Rio. Year two of Del Rio’s reign saw the best record that the team has produced since 2000. It seems like the Raiders are back.
Now that Oakland has regained a following and, quite frankly, talent, it seems reasonable to assume that they are again a force in the NFL. But it will take consistency to solidify their status as a top contender. In order to stay at the forefront of the conversation, the Raiders need to prove that they can be perennial champs, not just a one-hit wonder.
In 2016, Khalil Mack was named Defensive Player of the Year, Derek Carr was widely considered to be a strong contender for MVP, and the Raiders had one of the top-ranked offenses. The problem was on the opposite side of the ball. Despite having the DPOY, their defense was feeble. Unless Ken Norton Jr. and new assistant defensive head coach John Pagano can pull something together, the Raiders will remain on the bubble. Jack Del Rio has done what needed to be done on the offense, save for a couple of tweaks. KNJ and Pagano have their work cut out for them and Del Rio also has a job to do if he plans to remain in his position past his recent 4-year contract extension.
If Del Rio expects to keep his job, he has to improve every aspect of the team, including the defense. Being a former defensive coach, it seems like he would be up to the task. But he cannot have a repeat of his time in Jacksonville. If he can play his cards right, this Raiders team might be unstoppable. However, don’t get your hopes up until the team steps on the field and shows us exactly what they’re capable of.
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