Last season the Oakland Raiders finally meant something again. In my lifetime (I’m 25 years old for inquiring minds) Silver and Black has not meant much. They were good in the early 2000s with Jon Gruden as head coach. Then the tuck rule happened in 2001 followed by the Buccaneers publicly executing them at Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. From then until last season it was a black hole filled with draft busts (JaMarcus Russell being the crowned turd), incompetent head coaches and countless losing seasons.
The arrivals of Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper and Derek Carr turned the tide. That young nucleus coached by former Raider Jack Del Rio restored swag to a franchise that hadn’t had any for the greater part of a decade. In 2016 they had their first winning season since 2002 (12-4) and made their first playoff appearance since that dreadful Super Bowl beatdown.
In March they were approved for a move to Las Vegas, which is expected to happen as early as 2019. That gives them two more seasons in their native Oakland. The move to Vegas begs the question whether Raider Nation as we know it will be the same. Few fan bases ride for their team quite like Raider Nation. Through all the losing they still showed up in droves, turned up and on more than one occasion squared up with opposing fans.
Will that carry over to Vegas? Maybe. But let’s leave that question for another time. For now the Raiders are still in Oakland, in the title picture and have just added a player that not only embodies a vintage Raider, but Oakland the city–Marshawn Lynch.
Two days before the NFL Draft the Raiders agreed to a deal with the Seattle Seahawks that would send the formerly retired Lynch home to Oakland. In exchange for landing Lynch and a 2018 sixth-round pick the Raiders will send a 2018 fifth-round draft pick. The expectation is that Lynch will play for the Raiders in their final two years at Oakland (possibly halting any backlash from the Oakland faithful about the impending Vegas relocation as well).
Lynch signed a two-year deal with the team and posted this on Twitter:
It's time. pic.twitter.com/sgIQgZlkVM
— Shawn Lynch (@MoneyLynch) April 26, 2017
A man of few words, but many actions.
His addition makes the Raiders bona fide Super Bowl contenders. Last season their offensive line was one of the best in the league. Had they not implemented a running back by committee last season, Latavius Murray (signed with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason), probably runs for even more than the 788 yards and 12 touchdowns he ran for in 2016.
Couple that offensive line–which is returning all five starters–with the type of guy Lynch is and the result will not be pretty for the defense.
With Beast Mode on board do not expect a running back by committee. Jalen Richard will be the scatback and Lynch will be the bulldozer. Richard showed promise as a change-of-pace back and he should compliment Lynch extremely well especially coming out of the backfield on passing downs.
In his final season with the Seahawks Lynch played in only seven games due to injury, but managed to run for 417 yards and three touchdowns. When healthy he can put the team on his back with runs like this.
Carr proved last year that he can throw the Raiders into the playoffs. Cooper and Michael Crabtree are as good a receiving duo as you can get. But when the Raiders were at their absolute best they were running the football down a team’s throat. Their signature win last season was against the Broncos at home.
In that 30-20 win they ran for 218 yards and three touchdowns (all TDs courtesy of Murray). That is a blueprint that can win regular season games, but most importantly playoff games. In terms of playoff performers Lynch is as good as it gets. For his playoff career he has rushed for 937 rushing yards (4.9 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns with one Super Bowl ring.
That experience in itself makes the Lynch signing crucial to the Raiders taking that next step into the AFC elite. Right now it’s just the Patriots, Steelers and a bunch of wannabes. The message in Oakland is crystal clear–hit people in the face and just win baby.