Since the 2019 NFL schedules were released Jon Gruden has been asked many times about his feelings on the Raiders going a stretch of seven weeks without of a game in Oakland and he bristles every time. That stretch starts now and his feeling on it has not changed.
“We are still trying to understand how that happened, but we are going to have to deal with it,” said Gruden. “We just got to showcase our mental toughness and deal with it. It’s uncommon, maybe unprecedented, maybe unrealistic that this should ever happen in pro football. I’m not excited about it, but we’ll adapt and do it the best we can.”
Gruden has said something similar to this each time it comes up. He clinches his teeth and makes a snide comment about the schedule and wonders how it could have happened. If he is looking for answers, he doesn’t have to go far to get them. He can go down the hall to Mark Davis’s office.
It was Davis who opted into giving away a home game to another country for the fifth time in the last six years — twice in Mexico City, thrice in London.
From here the Raiders play in Minnesota and in Indianapolis, but instead of coming back to Oakland, they will once again play a ‘home’ game in London — the second year in a row and third since 2014.
And this is after already sending one of their preseason games to Canada to play on an 80-yard field because of issues with the turf in the end zones where the CFL goal posts were removed. That was...fun.
Davis opted into these trips. In part to please the league, which is allowing him to move the franchise to Las Vegas, and in part simply to take games away from the aged Oakland Coliseum.
Losing one home game in the season isn’t the primary reason for the extended time away all in one lump. That is due to an attempt at a game of chicken with the City of Oakland which Davis ultimately lost, forcing him to keep playing in games at the only place that ever made any real sense in the first place.
Late last season the City of Oakland threatened to file an antitrust lawsuit against the Raiders. Mark Davis responded by threatening to move the Raiders out of Oakland a year sooner than originally planned (that would be this year) if they went through with the suit. The City of Oakland went through with it, so Davis began trying to find another place for the Raider to play.
Potential locations supposedly included San Diego, Santa Clara, San Francisco (AT&T), San Antonio (What’s with the San cities?) and even heading to Vegas early to share the stadium at UNLV.
These threats lasted well past Roger Goodell’s soft deadlines and therefore well past when the schedule-makers were supposed to have had their plans well underway. Something they couldn’t do so long as they didn’t know where the Raiders would be playing. Making an entire NFL schedule is not easy. There are a lot of logistics to consider to arrange a schedule for 32 teams.
Davis’s reluctance to give up his fight to play elsewhere and just play in Oakland (which seemed inevitable all along) likely resulted in two things to happen with regard to the schedule-makers; One, they weren’t going to be accepting much, if anything, in the way of requests from Davis after already taking all other owner requests under consideration. And two, they probably had a bit of resentment that Davis would hold up the entire process for no legitimate reason, causing them to at very least not care how screwed up the Raiders schedule became.
The end result of all this is a seven week span until the Raiders play in Oakland again. They play in Minnesota, Indianapolis, London (Bears), Green Bay, and Houston with a bye week in between. The next time they play a game actually in Oakland is November 3 against the Lions — a stretch of 47 days.
The Raiders have three straight home games when they do return, but if the road stint doesn’t go well, they would already be looking at a disheartening uphill climb the rest of the way.
So, you can understand Gruden’s frustration over this. It IS unprecedented. But then so was the situation with Mark Davis and The City of Oakland, and the Raiders playing in Oakland for several years after making overt gestures to leave, and a couple years after officially announcing it they were leaving.
This is all uncharted territory. Gruden signed up for this knowing he would be riding the waves as the team played out their last couple seasons in Oakland before leaving for Las Vegas. This scheduling thing is just another bump along the way.