The Las Vegas Raiders fell short of the playoffs yet again in 2020. Year 3 of the Jon Gruden experiment has not borne fruit the likes of which ownership was hoping to see and the team's last playoff appearance remains 2016, when they had to start Connor Cook. Gruden and GM Mike Mayock have put together a fairly effective offense, but the defense still leaves a lot to be desired and that's why they finished 8-8 last year.
It's an improvement over 2019 (7-9) which was an improvement over 2018 (4-12). But when a team's starting quarterback has a $125 million deal as Derek Carr does and the same team's head coach is making $100 million over 10 years as Gruden is, expectations are higher than marginal year-over-year improvement.
Kyle Brandt gave voice to all of those thoughts and more on Wednesday's edition of Good Morning Football.
Those are some... dire stats about Carr. Brandt also might be the best in the biz at tying in accurate pop culture metaphors in football discussions, because the Raiders really are like National Treasure: fine, enjoyable even, but nothing to write home about.
The clock is certainly ticking for this iteration of the Raiders. Gruden's 10-year contract means owner Mark Davis is more committed than your average owner would be to a coach, but the roster is now shaped in Gruden and Mayock's image. There's no more weeding out of guys who don't fit the program left over from previous regimes. It's their team now, and it is time to deliver what was promised: postseason success.
Darren Waller, probably the best player on the team and the third-best tight end in the NFL, agrees. He appeared on the show shortly after Brandt's segment and said there were "no more excuses" starting at the 3:00 mark below.
Making the playoffs will not be an easy task given the Raiders reside in the same division as Patrick Mahomes. To be fair, perhaps no team plays the Chiefs and Mahomes tougher than the Raiders, who clearly view it as their job to play spoiler for their division rivals. But between KC's deadly passing attack and the rising star profile of one Justin Herbert on the Chargers and the in-division games will not be a cakewalk by any means.
Fortunately, the Raiders will begin the season with a slight advantage because they play the NFC East in 2021. It will be difficult for that division to be as bad across the board as they were in 2020, but three of the four squads are not poised for a massive improvement. The Cowboys will (probably) get Prescott back, but the Eagles still don't have any receivers even after fixing their QB dilemma, the WFT will have a fierce defense and mediocre-at-best offense again, and the Giants are banking on a big leap from Daniel Jones in Year 3. A risky proposition, to say the least.
This could be the year the Raiders make their first playoff appearance with Las Vegas as their home. It should be. The pieces are in place for a winning team. If they can't make it happen, Gruden's decade-long contract might not even be enough to protect him.