The Oakland Raiders finished up their 2015 season with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs which left them at 7-9 for the year. It was an unfortunate end, but still an undoubtably successful season. Al Davis would be upset, but we need to keep our expectations a little more realistic than he did.
Even though Derek Carr seemed to hit a wall at the end of the season and regress some as far as his performances go, he still gave plenty of reasons to be excited about the QB position moving forward for the Raiders. With how big of a jump he made from his rookie year to his sophomore year there is every reason to believe that the Raiders actually drafted a franchise quarterback, who would have thunk it?
Carr has been so uplifting for the franchise that it makes it that much more of a shame if the Raiders do indeed end up leaving Oakland for So Cal. After so many years floundering in eptitude at the game's most important position it is truly unfair to find one right at the same time as relocating the team altogether. Nothing is certain as far as Los Angeles is concerned but what we do know is, whether in L.A. or Oakland, the Raiders officially have their face of the franchise for years to come.
They also have their face of the franchise on defense as well with a player that could very well be the best defensive player in the league in the near future. Khalil Mack is everything we hoped he would be and more, already almost leading the league in sacks if it wasn't for a monster final week performance from Houston's J.J. Watt.
Having a player like Mack on the defense is even more important next year with the Ageless Wonder Charles Woodson finally deciding to hang up his cleats. They are losing one of the best defensive players in NFL history with Woodson's retirement but they are able to pass the baton to Khalil Mack who is also capable of reaching that elite, all-time great level.
The most important thing though, more important even than Carr or Mack, is that the coaching staff is set for years to come. Jack Del Rio is the right coach for this team, and Ken Norton Jr. is the right defensive coordinator too. Bill Musgrave the jury is still out on with some people liking him more than others, but he also earned another year on the job.
That means a lot more than people realize, because it means consistency finally. In just year one of the new regime they have created a feeling of inevitable success, something that wasn't able to be said about this team since the Jon Gruden years. Del Rio and Norton specifically have defensive mindsets and by the end of the year they were truly working well together.
As great as it is to have a good offense, it is even better to have a great defense. The Raiders appear poised to have both. With the defense really gelling though they have the opportunity to become elite with a few important additions. They will need a MLB, 2 safeties and a cornerback added via free agency and the draft in order to become the unit they can be but that is more than possible for this team to accomplish.
That won't leave a whole lot of room for improvements on offense, but offensively what they need more than new players is just for their current players to grow. They are full of young talent already, so they don't need the added attention the way the defense was. For that reason expect there to be a truly concentrated effort on specifically improving the defensive personnel this off-season.
Though this season goes down in the books as a losing season, it was anything but that in reality. The Raiders improved across the board in every aspect of their team. That isn't hyperbole, they honestly improved in every aspect from coaching, to offense, to defense and even special teams. Heck, Reggie McKenzie himself keeps improving as GM too.
The Oakland Raiders are in a truly excellent position for sustained success moving forward, the biggest issue is whether or not they will still be the "Oakland" Raiders in fact. We should have an answer soon as we all wait with baited breath on the outcome of the relocation procedures.
This was a great year even if it didn't get the Raiders over the hump. It feels like this is the start of something great which is the best feeling I have had about this team in over a decade. Let's hope they continued on this path to success, because more fool's gold would be almost as heartbreaking as them moving to Los Angeles.