I see a lot of people going around calling this season a bust. I disagree with that sentiment, simply because in order for it to be a bust, this team would had to have had LEGITIMATE (i.e. not delusional homer) high expectations. No one calls a 7th round pick who doesn't make it in the pros a bust because, realistically, there are not high expectations for a 7th round pick. This doesn't mean that no 7th round picks work out, or that the Raiders can't go 10-4 and sneak into the playoffs, but just that those were never likely scenarios.
All of the serious football analysts, the ones who engage in deeper, higher level quantitative and qualitative analysis (Phil Steele, Football Outsiders, etc.) called for the Raiders to have a very bad season. The reasons for this are simple. Last year, they were far worse than their 8-8 record led casual outsiders to believe (they had seven 1-score wins and only two 1-score losses).
In the offseason, this organization went through a massive overhaul in the front office, then lost a bunch of starters, had no money to invest in above average free agents, and didn't have a draft pick until the last pick of the 3rd round (this after not having a 1st round pick the year before). Oh, and then the division champs went out and got Peyton Manning.
Who can look at this objectively and say that the Raiders were more likely than not to have a good year? That doesn't mean that a good year was impossible, just unlikely. In my mind, fans should have realistic expectations for this year and be ecstatic that the Raiders are headed in the direction of a functional, 21st century football franchise.
This year is a perfect example of the phrase "It has to get worse before it gets better." They could've tried to mortgage the future for a chance at winning a few more games this year (trading more future draft picks, keeping the deeply flawed coaching staff from last year just for continuity's sake), but what would that have gotten them? 9-7, maybe?
In basketball, if you have a guard who has terrible shooting mechanics but makes baskets a decent amount of the time, the difficult but right decision is to change his mechanics, even if it means a tough adjustment period that costs you games in the short term. That doesn't mean you go out trying to lose, just that you set your goal as success in the long term, not the short term.
There are times to wager the future for the short term: when you have a chance to be a SB contender. The Raiders were never in that position. We should applaud Reggie for taking the long view. This doesn't mean that we don't want the team to win or get angry when they lose, or that we don't criticize coaches, players, and management in the short term, but rather that we try to look at things through the long term lens, just as Reggie is.
Hue Jackson sent the team backwards with the Carson Palmer trade; thankfully he is now gone. Let's hope Reggie doesn't do the same any time soon.