The Las Vegas Raiders have a share of first place in the AFC West Division while winning five of their first eight games. Of course, before they lost last Sunday to the New York Giants, Las Vegas was alone atop the division.
I don’t recommend you make plans for attending Raiders postseason games this year.
Them holding a share of first place is akin to falling off a ten story building and then announcing as you pass by the eighth floor window, “So far, so good.”
When I worked for the Raiders in the 1970’s, Al Davis stressed the strength of the team came from the organization. His son, Mark, seemed to have missed that lesson, thinking more that winning is tied only to the players on the field.
The Raiders front office began to come undone this offseason when four long time front office employees departed in a matter of weeks. Most prominent was team president Marc Badain, who had been with the team since 1991. He was followed out the door by CFO Ed Villanueva, vice president Bradon Doll and club controller Araxie Grant.
Why they all left is an open question that focuses on two primary reasons. Professional disagreements with Davis and some funny bookkeeping.
A few years ago, the Raiders Jon Gruden attempted to make his mark on the team after getting a ten year one hundred million dollar contract by trading away two of the best players on the team, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. In exchange, Gruden got extra high draft choices to build the team by a proven method … through the draft.
But, in the past week, we have seen the top two draft choices of 2020 have their football careers ended in dramatic fashion. Henry Ruggs III was involved in something that can hardly be called an accident when his car was traveling 156 miles per hour before tragically causing a collision that killed the driver of the vehicle he hit along with her dog.
End of Ruggs.
Before that 2020 draft, the Raiders were cautioned that the talented but troubled defensive back Damon Arnette was a risky high draft choice, but Davis gave the go ahead to pick him in the first round just a few picks after the drafting of Ruggs.
In the middle of all these problems, Gruden was dismissed after some highly questionable emails he had left to be discovered.
I recall the Raiders teams of the 1970’s had a reputation that befit their black uniforms. But those men who wore the Silver and Black were not hoodlums, and even those that had questionable backgrounds before joining the Raiders were brought in line by the context Al Davis set in his organization.
His son seems to aspire to do the same, but without the strength of a strong organization and no context set worth aspiring to in Las Vegas. The Raiders have got what they deserve. In this case, Arnette was released this week after two years of causing more problems than fireworks igniting in a room dense with leaking gas.
Listing his troubles since joining the Raiders would keep a police station buried in paperwork, but suffice it to say that while in Las Vegas he crashed four rental cars and was seen on video waving guns while threatening murder.
And the Raiders share first place and are hopeful of increasing their advantage over the Kansas City Chiefs when the two-time AFC Champions come calling on Sunday.
This is not the Chiefs team of the past two years, they have a defense that gives up yards in bunches and an offense still looking to protect Patrick Mahomes with a makeshift offensive line.
Still, we can expect Kansas City players to all show up tonight and be ready to give it their best shot, while who is left standing for Derek Carr to work with is unknown. Which leaves more questions than answers on tonight's game.