Raiders’ new rallying cry: Just break even again, baby
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 5:34 p.m.
To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, winning isn’t everything, but a .500 record sure beats a losing season.
To paraphrase Al Davis, a football team needs pride, poise and a commitment to at least break even.
The Raiders host the Cleveland Browns today at the Oakland Coliseum, and the fabled Silver and Black stand a decent chance of winning, considering these aren’t your father’s Cleveland Browns, nor your grandfather’s, either. Those Browns packed up, moved to Baltimore and changed their name to Ravens some 17 years ago.
These Browns, with the same 3-8 record as the Raiders, are so awful, Mike Holmgren was seen leaving Cleveland last week holding his nose, the stench was that repulsive, and the garbage in and on Lake Erie wasn’t ablaze, either.
If the Raiders manage to win today, their record would “improve,” if that’s the word, to 4-8, with four games remaining. If they were to run the table (to borrow a term from barroom billiards), if somehow they were to win all their remaining games, the Raiders would finish 8-8. And while that couldn’t logically be called progress, it could be called consistency, since the team finished the 2010 season at 8-8 under Tom Cable and concluded 2011 at 8-8 under Hue Jackson.
Another 8-8 season, under yet another head coach, this time Dennis Allen, wouldn’t be cause for a parade through Jack London Square, but it would be evidence of consistency, almost always a valued asset in sports.
And if the Raiders win today, certainly no guarantee with this underachieving and once-again injury-riddled bunch, the formidable and seemingly playoff-bound Denver Broncos come to Oakland next week, so dreams of an 8-8 season might be short-lived.
Still, dare to struggle, dare to dream.
After the Broncos, the Raiders have the following schedule: Kansas City, at Carolina, at San Diego. Pardon the crazy-eyed optimism, but those three games would appear to be winnable. The Chiefs are staring at the possibility of a 15-loss season, the Panthers are in a funk comparable to the Raiders’ and the Chargers should be battling for division supremacy but instead are battling for relevance and for Norv Turner’s job.
In other words, beat a bad Cleveland team today, upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos next week, and an 8-8 season would seem a reachable goal rather than an impossible dream.
Would the Raiders and their fans be happy with an 8-8 record?
Well, probably not happy, exactly, but they’d be mighty pleased with closing out the season with a five-game winning streak. They’d be mighty pleased with having turned around a monumentally disastrous season into a respectable one.
What’s kind of funny, in a perversely sardonic way, about striving for an 8-8 season is that two years ago when the Raiders beat the playoff-bound Chiefs in Kansas City to finish 8-8, Cable was thrilled to become the first Raiders’ coach in eight years to have a non-losing season. Unfortunately for Cable, owner Al Davis was less-then-thrilled.
The prospect of an 8-8 record for 2012, though, considering that a highlight of the season so far is a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, might sound like a return to the franchise’s glory years.
Granted, it’s not entirely fair to be too critical of the current Raiders regime (new owner, new general manager, new head coach) after one season. On the other hand, we’ve always been told by NFL owners, GMs and coaches that pro football is a results-oriented business. The results, so far in 2012, for the Raiders have been alarming. Not only is their record 3-8 and the possibility of the team’s first losing campaign since 2009 seems probable, but the Raiders just concluded the worst month in franchise history, a month in which they were 0-4 and were outscored by a cumulative 169-79.
And remember, as quintessential mediocrity an 8-8 record is, last year it was good enough to tie Denver for first place in the AFC West. The Broncos went to the playoffs (and advanced to the AFC title game) because they had a better record against division opponents (although they split their two games with Oakland).
So, who knows? If the Raiders were to begin a five-game winning streak today, maybe the Broncos, even with the sainted Peyton Manning, could start a five-game losing streak.
Nuttier things have happened in the NFL.
Or have they?
Robert Rubino can be reached at email@example.com.
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