When all of this eventually crash-lands for the Raiders—it’s hard to believe it can get stranger from here in Oakland, but it will—you can’t blame Antonio Brown. He was mercurial before coming to this team. He’s particular and finicky, like a musician who wants his water at a certain temperature or bass tuned a specific way.
You can’t blame Jon Gruden, either. He was always going to kick the door in and redecorate the place for the Full Gruden Experience. He was always going to stockpile recognizable, aging veterans like a teenager running their Madden franchise and handle the landmines with the delicacy of a brakeless U-Haul barreling downhill.
You can’t blame Mike Mayock, who, in his first run with the front office, is putting a good face on a strange situation. Why was it so difficult to find the right general manager for this experiment? Now we know.
It’s hard to believe a football lifer like owner Mark Davis could watch the assembly of these disjointed parts and assume they would all come together harmoniously. Yes, the report from NFL.com’s Michael Silver Friday, which stated that a frostbitten Brown has also been raging against the NFL’s new helmet policy and may refuse to play again unless he’s allowed to wear his old helmet, is odd. But anyone couching this as a kind of random lightning strike that sometimes hits good teams building things the right way is still tipsy on Silver and Black Kool Aid. This is symptomatic of the operation; this strange, conjured vision of the Raiders as some combination of the dynastic Patriots and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
The idea that one or two people can fix things or change things is ludicrous. The idea that you can fix or change people has been proven wrong in the NFL time and time again.
This coaching staff was presented with a once in a lifetime blank slate to regenerate a franchise from scorched earth. TEN-YEAR contracts. A new stadium on the horizon with boundless possibilities. With that kind of patience and long-term vision, you could craft something Belichickian. Instead, the Raiders have opted for something closer to Barnum.
Inking a combustible 30-plus-year-old talent to try to make a run at an unwinnable division (remember the Chiefs and Chargers?) and pairing it with a my-way-or-the-highway head coach who has caused nightmares for players who have dared to rage against his system in the past, could set the franchise back half a decade. It could start eating into Derek Carr’s prime years, while he’s still on the relatively affordable side of the franchise quarterback financial spectrum.
Oh, and why not sign on to do Hard Knocks while you’re at it? Because there’s nothing like sorting out the myriad issues that come with this new endeavor alongside a host of objective, camera-toting journalists and producers filming your every word.
If you’re rooting for this team and believe that all of these things will pass, bless you and your bottomless faith. The truth might be a little bit harder to swallow: That winning wasn’t the only objective. It was about creating a spectacle. Pulling you in. Putting on the type of Vegas performance that we all pretend doesn’t feel microwaved and a little gaudy.
The player who walked out on his team a year ago while they were still in the playoff hunt, allegedly chucked furniture off his porch, dyed his facial hair bleach blonde, coined himself Mr. Big Chest, forced a trade, dumped on a few of his former teammates on the way out and arrived at your camp in a hot air balloon is coming to center stage now.
Who could have seen that coming?
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