From the time I was 7 until the Raiders left for Oakland in 1994 (about nine years time), I went to nearly every home game at the Coliseum. During their subsequent years in Oakland, I followed every play, every win, every loss and every season-ending disappointment.
I cried when Tony Siragusa sat on Rich Gannon effectively knocking him out of the Baltimore Ravens game in the AFC semi-finals in 2000. Then I smelled the Super Bowl in 2001 when Charles Woodson flew in and caused Tom Brady to fumble, only to have that call reversed and somehow that play become an incomplete pass (f— the tuck rule).
Then the coaching carousel began. Al Davis effectively pushed out the best young coach in the game in Jon Gruden-the guy who put the Raiders back on the map. And they hired Bill Callahan, the so-called architect of the offense. The Raiders seemed to barely miss a beat. But old, injured and out of control, the Raiders coached by Callahan, the student, were dominated by the Bucs, coached by Gruden, the teacher, in one of the most awful Super Bowls in memory.
It was then that I knew that the Raiders would be in trouble. The next season, Callahan lost complete control of the team. Woodson and Charlie Garner – two guys not known for being a-holes – walked out and were suspended. And the rest of the season became anarchy.
Al Davis fired Callahan and replaced him with the awful Norv Turner. Norv Turner? Predictable 5-11 and 4-12 seasons ensued.
Then the gamble became downright silly. Al Davis hired his former puppet Art Shell to coach the team. This is when I seriously wondered why I still rooted for the Raiders. Davis seemed to be trying to make them worse. I felt cheated. 2-14. Art Shell? You’re fired.
Then something happened. Davis returned to his maverick days and hired 32-year-old Lane Kiffin. Yeah, I’m a USC guy, but Kiffin seemed to have a special gift with the offense. In his last year at USC, the offense improved after Norm Chow left for the Titans. Kiffin came in and suddenly the discipline problems from the year before lessened and the Raiders seemed to be improving despite awful quarterbacking from Josh McCown and Dante Culpepper and then Jamarcus Russel, the Raiders managed to double their wins from the season before. Six of their 12 losses came by a touchdown or less. Things seemed to be on the upswing.
Then summer came and Davis exploded. Kiffin wanted more control and Davis wanted him fired. He asked Kiffin to resign. And I knew it was only a matter of time. Again I wondered why I still followed them.
This season begins and I am rooting for the Raiders harder than I ever have. I want Kiffin to stay. They get pounded by the Broncos after Davis orders D-Coordinator Rob Ryan not to blitz because that’s not the Raider way. Then the blitzes get OK’d and the Raiders go to KC and beat the Chiefs. They have Buffalo on the ropes, same with the Chargers, but lose both games in the fourth quarter. A coach with basically a rookie backfield almost has the Raiders 3-1. It looked like only a matter of time before they returned to respectability. But Davis stuck his nose back in. And now the Raiders are a laughing stock not just of the NFL, but of sports as a whole.
I am sad, embarrassed and pretty pissed off about investing almost 20+ years of life in the Raiders only to have them break my heart over and over again. I’m done until Davis is done. I hope a lot of people are with me.