The Raiders relentless pursuit of improving the back-end of the roster by constantly self-scouting and making upgrades is the backbone of a blossoming culture.
Mike Mayock recently told Rich Eisen that being a GM is “a 24/7, 365 days a year job” and he’s held true to that promise. Just take a look at this ridiculously long list of transactions the team has made since October began.
That details nine player signings, two trades, a flurry of practice squad moves and a 4-year, $29.8 million extension for Darren Waller that includes $10.6 million guaranteed.
When Al Davis took over as head coach and GM of the Oakland Raiders in 1963 at only 33 years old, he took a 1-13 team to a 10-4 immediately and was named Coach of the Year. His pledge of a commitment to excellence permeated throughout the franchise and the Raiders went on to only suffer through a mere seven losing seasons between 1963 and 2002.
An eye for finding talent and a tenacious desire to continuously improve all areas of the roster resulted in a continuous influx of foundational players who now live in Raiders lore.
One year after head coach Jon Gruden left Oakland in 2001, the Raiders plummeted into the deepest doldrums of the franchise’s rich history. The team has only made the playoffs once since then, and in a cruel twist of fate it was Connor Cook who got the start in that deflating 27-14 loss to the Houston Texans.
Sitting at 6-4 with a bouquet of foundational rookies and a chance to crash the AFC playoff picture, the Raiders are rediscovering their winning formula with Gruden and Mayock steering the ship toward clear skies. Mayock’s eye for talent has already shown through with Josh Jacobs in the running for OROY, Maxx Crosby sacking his way into the DROY race and Clelin Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, Hunter Renfrow and Foster Moreau all looking like starting caliber players to varying degrees.
The rookie class is putting up an historic cumulative effort through the first 10 games of the season. They’ve already tied the franchise record for Raider rookie touchdowns in a season with 14, a number that will be dwarfed by season’s end.
#Raiders are the 1st team since sacks became official stat in 1982 to get 10+ sacks and 10+ TDs from rookies in the 1st 10 games of the season— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) November 18, 2019
Couple that with the impact that fresh signings are making straight off the couch and it’s become a little ridiculous how well the Raiders have turned solutions that initially seemed like paper mache into adobe bricks.
Since October began, the Raiders have done more work to churn production out of the final portion of the 53-man roster than any other team in the league. And they have given up almost nothing to do so.
They have heavily assimilated Zay Jones into the receiver rotation as the team’s starting ‘Z’ after trading a 2021 fifth-round pick for him. Then they grabbed Will Compton, who quickly became key contributor on special teams and the current third linebacker in base defensive sets. This past week, they unveiled D.J. Swearinger as a starting safety after less than a week of practice and tapped into former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan’s potential, coaxing a sack out of him in limited playing time.
After a poor tackling performance from their linebackers against the Bengals, the Raiders continued to self-scout and decided that they needed to bring in Preston Brown to further add competition to the unit. Brown has a tendency to avoid contact from oncoming blockers as we profiled here, but he’s a tackling machine who has racked up three 100-tackle seasons over his career.
With Gruden and Mayock both possessing a high level of job security, it seems that it’s just a matter of time before their tireless work and incessant mining will turn up more and more gems. Gruden’s scheme can help manufacture first downs, points and even sometimes wins, but it’s the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s, not the X’s and the O’s that get it done at the end of the day.
Whether this team makes the playoffs this year or not, this season is already a massive success and the organization is clearly headed in the right direction. Their commitment to excellence has them headed there.