Season grade: Below average. Didn't the Raiders simply need a good roster-scrubbing and better coaching to finish more like 12-4 (which they did in 2016) after the 6-10 nosedive of 2017? Instead, coach Jon Gruden, in his first year back with the Raiders, went about rebuilding the roster with owner Mark Davis' blessing, and general manager Reggie McKenzie paid for it with his job. Entering Week 17, 38 players on the Raiders' 53-man roster did not spend a single day on Oakland's 53-man roster last season. Also, just seven of Reggie McKenzie's 50 draft picks made before Jon Gruden's return are on the current 53-man roster. Talk about turnover.
Season in review: The shock of the Khalil Mack trade on Sept. 1 barely had worn off as the Raiders got off to quick starts, holding halftime leads in their first three games against the Rams, Broncos and Dolphins, but late collapses led to an 0-3 start. An unlikely overtime victory over the Browns followed, but then the team returned to its losing ways. The season reached a nadir with an embarrassing 34-3 defeat at the Bay Area rival 49ers, two weeks after wide receiver Amari Cooper was traded, dropping Oakland to 1-7 and leading many to wonder whether the Raiders were en route to a 1-15 finish. The team showed improvement in wins over the Cardinals, Steelers and Broncos, though. These victories hurt Oakland's draft slot, but they gave fans some hope for the future and belief in Gruden's system.
He said it: "I always look in the mirror, and the buck stops with me. Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven't been able to build a 22-man [starting] roster. We haven't been able to give this team a chance to win because the reconstruction failed. We failed from 2014 on to have a roster right now." -- Raiders owner Mark Davis
Is Derek Carr truly Gruden's QB? It did not seem like it in the aftermath of both Mack and Cooper getting traded, as Carr struggled mightily to master Gruden's offense. And with Gruden's affinity for veteran quarterbacks, Joe Flacco started being whispered about. But Carr flipped a switch around the bye week. While he was not as explosive as he has been in the recent past (think 2016), he was more efficient, a valuable trait in Gruden's scheme. Carr completed a career-high 68.8 percent of his passes and passed for more than 4,000 yards. "We know we've got to get better around him," Gruden said of Carr, "and that we will."
What about all those draft picks? Because of those Mack and Cooper trades, three of the Raiders' 10 draft picks come in the first round. The Raiders have needs all over the field, especially at pass-rusher -- Oakland had only 13 sacks as a team while Mack had 12.5 by himself in Chicago -- and receiver. Cooper looked re-energized in Dallas, amassing more than 700 yards receiving and six TDs in his nine regular-season games there. Expect Gruden to address those needs early in free agency or in the draft. But keep in mind, the last time Gruden had ultimate power in a draft room, in Tampa Bay from 2002 through 2008, only three of his 90 draft picks made it to at least one Pro Bowl. Gruden and the Raiders need to hit on these draft picks to make the trades worthwhile and the rebuild successful.
Where will the Raiders play in 2019? Oakland? San Diego? San Francisco? Santa Clara? Reno? Glendale, Arizona? Parts Unknown? All that is known at this time is that the City of Oakland has announced plans to file a federal lawsuit against the team and the league over the Raiders' move to Las Vegas, to which the Raiders responded by removing their lease offer of $7.5 million to play next season at the Oakland Coliseum. The NFL needs to know by early February at the latest where the Raiders will play home games -- they most assuredly will practice during the week at their Alameda complex -- and, you'd imagine, free agents will want to know as well, considering the move to Southern Nevada in less than two years.