Last weekend was a big weekend for the AFC West. Sunday began as a three horse race between the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders for the AFC West crown. That race was expected to continue until the final game of the season with the big deciding game being the Chiefs vs Raiders. That is not to say all three teams would have still been in contention, but two would have been and the third could possibly play spoiler. But the stars aligned for the Chiefs as they won their matchup with the Titans while the Chargers and Raiders both lost their games. That scenario handed them the division regardless of what happens in the final week of the season. So why should Raider fans still care about what happens in the game vs the Chiefs?
Aside from the obvious reason, that being beating a divsion rival, there are other things to play for and therefore more reasons to be interested in how it unfolds as well as the outcome.
First of all, the Raiders would finish the season at 8-8. That would make this their first non-losing season since 2002. The Raiders surpassed the best season since 02 when they beat the Chargers in San Diego back in week 13. But that wasn’t much of an accomplishment considering the team had at least 11 losses each of the past 7 seasons. They stopped the streak of consecutive double digit losses with their week 15 home win over the Broncos. Winning on Sunday would end their consecutive losing season streak and that would lift an enormous monkey off of these players’ backs. It would wipe the slate clean to shed the loser label.
The last time the Raiders finished a season 8-8, was John Gruden’s second season as head coach and Rich Gannon’s first season as the Raiders starting quarterback. In the two seasons prior to Gruden coming on board, the Raiders had two consecutive losing seasons– the last one was a 4-12 year under Joe Bugels one year stint as head coach. At the time, that was considered rock bottom for the perrenially strong Raiders.
The season following the 8-8 beginning of the Gruden/Gannon era in Oakland, things rapidly improved. The next three seasons were all double digit win seasons with three trips to the playoffs, two trips to the AFC championship game and one trip to the Super Bowl. And It all started with an 8-8 season.
The other much talked about team milestone would be going 6-0 in the division. While that accomplishment would carry with it the stigma of being the first time in history a team swept their division and failed to make the playoffs, it would still be tremendous. The kind of achievement of which these Raiders could be extremely proud.
Which brings me to the individual ramifications as 8-8, 6-0 would very likely earn Tom Cable the right to keep his job. Someone asked me before the season what it would take for Tom Cable to get a new contract after the season. My response was “seven wins.” He has that now and yet there are still lingering questions about whether he will be brought back as head coach. Most of those concerns seem to surround whether Al Davis would give the head coaching position to current offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson. Tom Cable may already be the favorite to come back next season, but if he were to bring the team back to .500 football while sweeping the divison, that could be the clincher.
As for Hue Jackson, after hearing him speak on the final day of training camp in Napa, I made the statement that he will be a head coach in this league within three years. The question was simply whether that would be with the Raiders or elsewhere. He is a very well spoken man who commands respect from everyone who comes in contact with him. He seems to have all the leadership qualites one looks for in a head coach.
The contention was if the Raiders played well, Cable would be re-signed and Jackson would take a head job elsewhere. And if the Raiders struggled, Cable would be let go and Jackson promoted to head coach. Currently, rumor has it that Denver has their eye on Hue as their next head coach to replace the departed Josh McDaniels. So it shouldn’t be long before we find out if there is any truth to those rumors and how that sits with Al Davis. How the Raiders play against the Chiefs will likely contribute to how that scenario plays out.
So despite the Raiders season finale against the Chiefs seeming to be meaningless, with no playoff implications, there is still plenty to play for and plenty of potential ramifications based on the outcome.
The game and season results aside, there are also plenty of individual player accomplishments that could be reached in this game as well. Click Here to see those.