Barber: Oakland fans deserve an NFL team — just not this one

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


OAKLAND - The Raiders are cheaters.

I’m not talking about the stacks of flags they incurred Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams. With 145 penalty yards in the first half, they already led the NFL in that category for Week 1. But most of those were mere mistakes, not outright mendacity.

No, it isn’t the on-field opponent the Raiders are cheating. It’s the fans of Oakland. The past couple of years have been an exercise in fleecing the locals, and Monday night was the latest offense.

I mean, the big grift is obvious. Raiders fans are among the most loyal in the NFL, and the Raiders are thanking them by leaving them at home with the kids and the bills and skipping off to a love nest in Las Vegas. This has happened before, so we shouldn’t be surprised. The Raiders want to move to Vegas in 2020. Some Oakland and Alameda County politicians want them out in 2019. To be determined.

Raiders owner Mark Davis has valid reasons for uprooting: thousand-dollar bills, hundred-dollar bills and suitcases full of 20s and 10s. And who can blame him? Vegas made an offer he couldn’t refuse. Oakland refused to make an offer. The money won, as it always does.

But Davis’ decision was a slap in the face to the people of Oakland and the rest of the East Bay. He insisted that parking was a big part of the new stadium negotiations, because of his reverence for tailgating. Then the parking plan for Vegas was released, and it included small just-off-site lots and many, many shuttles from casinos and, I don’t know, wedding chapels. Davis claimed he didn’t have the money to build his own stadium in Oakland, yet he is paying Jon Gruden $100 million to coach for the next 10 years.

Raiders fans have mostly sucked it up and accepted their fate. Most say they will still root for the team when it’s playing in Nevada. Many plan to buy tickets and fly to Vegas for games. They welcomed Gruden back to the fold as if he were Norman Schwarzkopf.

How did Gruden thank them? By trading their best player, Khalil Mack.

Again, there were reasons. Mack wanted a lot of money — more money than any other defensive player in the league. The Raiders already had a lot of salary tied up in quarterback Derek Carr. And the Bears, among other teams, offered a dowry of draft picks in trade.

But the Mack trade was a slap to Oakland’s other cheek, the one it had already turned, like Jackie Robinson. By swapping a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year for draft picks (and replacing him in the short term with rookies), the Raiders were trading the present for the future — a future that does not include Oakland.

Gruden, who is firmly in charge of this organization, erased one of the city’s most entertaining and beloved athletes. Raiders fans mostly hated it, and haven’t been afraid to say it on social media.

But when the Monday-night opener rolled around, all seemed to have been forgiven. From my seat in the press box, I can gaze down to a wide section of lower-level seating, and I’m used to seeing a couple-dozen No. 52 Mack jerseys. This time, I spied only a couple. It was like the fans were saying, OK, we’ll forget about Khalil and give this thing a shot.

Gruden didn’t get the roaring reception that met him at the first preseason game here, but it was warm nonetheless. He gestured to the crowd behind the Raiders bench and pumped his fist a few times. The folks in the seats were engaged and energetic from the start.

And how did Gruden thank the Oaklanders? By cheating them out of good football.

The Raiders looked fantastic on their first drive. They went 75 yards in seven plays, and Marshawn Lynch finished the job by carrying the entire Rams roster into the end zone. It felt like a fairytale. The Rams got the ball and went three-and-out. OMG, could this really be happening?

But from that point on, the Rams outscored the home team 33-6. The Raiders still led 13-10 at halftime, but it was a mirage. The first two quarters promised a competitive game, maybe even a victory. It was another broken promise.

It’s hard to describe how bad the Raiders were in the second half. Their catalog of possessions went: punt, punt, punt, interception, interception, end of game.

But that doesn’t fully convey their ineptitude. Quarterback Derek Carr, despite receiving adequate protection, looked like the jittery, shell-shocked quarterback who returned from an injury last season. He threw the ball a mile out of bounds. He threw the ball to running back Jalen Richard when Richard wasn’t looking. And those were among his more productive passes.

With 8:08 left in the game, Carr looked right, calmly pivoted to his left and tossed a comfortably catchable ball right into the arms of Los Angeles linebacker Cory Littleton. It was a bizarre play, and breathtaking in its inaccuracy. Carr wasn’t done, either. The Raiders’ next possession ended when he tried to connect with Jared Cook but instead was picked off by Marcus Peters, who raced 50 yards and somersaulted into the end zone for a Rams touchdown.

Gruden’s offense was a dud. Remember Amari Cooper? With Mack’s departure, he’s probably the third best player on the team. Cooper was targeted three times against the Rams. He caught one pass for nine yards. Lynch, so inspiring on that opening drive, finished with 11 carries.

My guess is that Raiders fans will once again give Gruden and his team the benefit of the doubt. They know their time with the Raiders is coming to an end, and they really want to see great things happen this year, and next year if the team is still here.

But their magnanimity is not boundless. The crowd began to rain down a few boos as Carr misfired in the second half. They reached a crescendo on those final two interceptions.

Oakland fans deserve a team, but Mark Davis is making it disappear. They deserve great players, but Gruden is willing to trade them. They deserve to watch competitive games, but that didn’t happen in Week 1.

Oh, but hey, Marcus Peters is from Oakland. At least somebody knows how to honor the home crowd.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at (707) 521-5263 or Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

Show Comment

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine