Everyone knows about the dreaded East Coast disadvantage for West Coast teams. The idea being that when these teams have to hop on a plane and fly across the country, then start their games three hours earlier. In a league in which wins and losses are often decided by seemingly insignificant things like a time zone shift, it’s a real thing.
Last season the Raiders were able to buck that, winning every one of their games in the Eastern time zone. One thing they did to attempt to limit or eliminate any disadvantage they had was to stay over in Florida for a week. They played in Jacksonville on October 23 and then in Tampa on October 30. In the interim, they stayed in Florida for what was sort of like a mini-training camp setting. They won both games, the second one in Tampa in overtime.
They don’t have two games in Northern Florida this season. They have the game in Buffalo Sunday and then head to Sourth Florida to play the Dolphins next week. And with last year’s trip working out so well, this seemed like a good time to do it again. They have to routine down and everything.
“We actually pack a little more and send it on to Sarasota and don’t worry about it,” Jack Del Rio said this week. “Then it’s a normal trip to Buffalo to play our game and then when that game’s over, then we instead of flying home, we’ll just fly down to where we’re going to be and then that bag will be there. Then you get into a normal week down there.”
The Raiders already do a lot of traveling. Not just because they’re a West Coast team, and therefore logically must travel the greatest distance to play other NFL teams, but because they’re playing in Mexico City again this season. That trip will happen next month, following the bye week.
“Being on point, taking care of business, that’s what allows it to be a good thing,” Del Rio continued. “I think you have to do that, but the process is good, where you’re not flying coast to coast. You’re minimizing the amount of that travel. I don’t know if anybody does it more than us this year, but we’re called on to do a lot of traveling this year so to help mitigate that this year, we think it’s good for our organization.”
There are other potential benefits than the lack of time on a plane and acclimating to the time zone. In the same way that training camp allows players and coaches to bond, this trip does as well.
“The advantage is, one, you don’t have to wake up earlier because of traffic or drive, you just walk downstairs,” said Derek Carr. “And two, you get to eat every meal with your teammates. It’s almost like another, I think I said it last year, it’s almost like another camp where we’re all together. We’re all doing things together. . . going out together and hanging out in the room together. Those kinds of things. And I think that is, besides not having to fly, that’s just a major benefit of guys just being together outside of the hour windows that we have here.”
Though a potential drawback is the players not coming home to be with their families and sleep in their own bed. Some players, such as Derek Carr, have figured out how to solve at least part of that problem — just bring your family along.
“One thing for me is even last year, my family’s going to be there,” said Carr. “They’re way more important than football to me. I’ll definitely fly them out so that they’re there so I can see my wife and my babies.”
That trip starts tonight with the team hopping on their flight for Buffalo. Then a week in sunny Sarasota Florida before facing the Dolphins and, if all gores well, returning home for their bye week with a 5-4 record.