The Raiders (4-11) can establish the worst one-year turnaround after appearing in the Super Bowl if it is defeated by San Diego. The Atlanta Falcons were 14-2 in 1998 before losing to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Atlanta then struggled to a 5-11 campaign the ensuing year.
Last year at this time, the Raiders had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Oakland defeated the New York Jets (30-10) and Tennessee Titans (41-24) to reach its first Super Bowl in 19 seasons.
The Raiders then suffered through a day that will live in infamy as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew Oakland's doors off in a 48-21 win in the Super Bowl. Many people viewed that as a lost opportunity for the Raiders.
Oakland, however, decided to bring its core veterans back for one more shot. The Raiders languished through the exhibition season, looking progressively worse in each game in posting a 1-3 record. Oakland seemingly began to right its ship with a 34-31 overtime win over San Diego on Sept. 28 to even its record at 2-2.
The next two games, however, might have been the beginning of the end for the Raiders. They had winnable games in back-to-back weeks against Chicago and Cleveland on the road. Oakland, however, lost to those clubs 24-21 and 13-7 respectively. If the Raiders could have minimally split those games, they might have at least made a push for a playoff spot. At least, that thinking seemed rational at the time.
There are some fans and perhaps some within the Raiders organization who still contend that if the team had not been overwhelmed by injuries, the team is still a threat to make another Super Bowl run.
Unfortunately, they are missing the point.
Granted, no team would sail through the season with 12 players placed on injured reserve. Even when Oakland was healthy, however, it was struggling. The feeling here is if the Raiders were not blasted with injuries, they would have produced a 7-9 season on the low end and 9-7 on the high end but they would have been hard-pressed to equate last year's record of 11-5.
For three years, the Raiders were good enough to win with their backup players because the rest of the roster was strong at several positions.
That was then.
This is now.
The whole thing is bad. Well, except for the kicking game but the coverage units have been terrible. The offense and defense are a disaster too.
Granted, no team would many games with its No. 3 quarterback at the helm as the Raiders lost Rich Gannon and Marques Tuiasosopo to season-ending injuries. Certainly, a great quarterback would make a difference because such a player will make the players around him look better. John Elway willed average Denver teams to three Super Bowl games. Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Tennessee's Steve McNair have shown the ability to make decent players better.
Oakland, however, was struggling even with Rich Gannon in the lineup this season. Granted, every great player is bound to slump at some point in his career. But shouldn't Gannon, the 2002 NFL MVP, have gotten hot at some point after the first quarter of the season?
Oakland, however, is at best an average team if healthy. Even a great quarterback, however, might have trouble playing for this team now because he would get so little help.
It was a team-effort then – and it's a team effort now.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com