Raiders year in review

By Os Davis  |   Tuesday, December 30, 2008  |  Comments( 41 )

Oakland Raiders
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Frustrating, heartbreaking, infuriating: Say what you will about the 2008 Oakland Raiders’ season, it certainly wasn’t boring. Without further ado, then, a brief recap of the highlights, lowlights and of course the intrigue that made 2008 so very ... interesting for the Raider Nation.

Preseason. All involved parties deny – or would have, had they been given the chance – the utterly unsubstantiated preseason story that owner Al Davis had sent Lane Kiffin an already prepared letter of resignation to sign. The rumored tension stems from Kiffin’s desire to hand his father the defensive coordinator position, and we all know how well hiring family members worked out for the Detroit Lions this season.

Lane Kiffin calls media outlets to let everyone know he was at the NFL combine. And that he’s still alive. And that he’s fielding offers from other pro, university or high school teams. You know, for 2009.

Warren Sapp is hired by “Inside the NFL” producers as full-time headshaker and Raider disparager. Sapp succeeds brilliantly, putting “I tell everyone who asks not to go to Oakland” somewhere between “Why so serious?” and “Yes, we can!” on the list of the year’s most popular catchphrases.

On draft day, the Raiders make a splash by filling an offensive skill position well short on depth and immediately see returns on the result, wowing observers straight from camps and throughout an injury-free rookie season. Chaz Schilens: What an addition!

The Raiders’ free-agent bumper crop includes Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall – that was “crop,” not “crap.” For some wacky reason, Gibril Wilson also comes aboard from a stint with the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants; clearly he hadn’t consulted with Sapp.

Week 1. In spite of, or, let’s face it, probably because of, a RealFootball365 prediction that the Raiders would make it a ball game on opening day, the Raiders are crushed by the Denver Broncos. Having grabbed sole possession of first place in the AFC West, meanwhile, the Broncos immediately begin working on choking away their playoff berth.

Week 2. Ah, a visit to Kansas City. Always good for what ails ya, and JaMarcus Russell got to pretend he was at LSU again for 60 minutes.

Week 3. With a lead in the fourth against ostensible playoff contenders in the Buffalo Bills, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan makes the quirky decision to lay off the blitzing while ignoring Marshawn Lynch altogether. Trent Edwards and Lynch go on to lead a 13-play, 107-yard drive to win the game. Not that Ryan was trying to get Kiffin fired or anything.

Week 4. The inside dope that fed sports reporters the inside dope all season hits a crescendo in declaring that Kiffin would be fired any minute after the loss to the San Diego Chargers. Despite Sebastian Janikowski nailing a 113-yard field goal, the questionable halftime adjustment which calls for the Raider ‘D’ to actually lie down on every Charger snap ultimately costs Kiffin his job.

Week 5. Kiffin is fired, Davis goes Ross Perot with charts and graphs, offensive line coach Tom Cable is named interim head coach, and in the bye week the Raider ‘O’ puts up as many points as it will in upcoming games against the Saints, Falcons, Panthers and Chargers combined.

Week 6. As the Saints dismantle the Raiders on the way to a 34-3 victory, Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino’s record for passing yardage in a single season in a single game.

Week 7.
To express this game in dialogue, it goes something like the following.
Jets: Have this win, please.
Raiders: No, thank you. You can have it.
Jets: Really. We want you to have it.
Raiders: We wouldn’t dream of it. You with your studly quarterback and all. You take it.
Jets: I insist. We’ll have other chances this season, et cetera.

Week 8. Crushed by the Baltimore Ravens, 29-10, after spotting the Birds a 19-point lead composed of passing, running, kicking and defensive scoring. It can’t get much worse.

Week 9. Whipped by the Atlanta Falcons, 24-0, in a game in which the Raiders produce 98 yards of offense. Surely they’ve bottomed out.

Week 10. Disastrous signing DeAngelo Hall is given his walking papers, much to the relief of essentially all. Hall is picked up by Washington, to which he contributes exactly one interception while his new team goes 2-6 for the season’s remainder. Just saying.

As for the Raiders, smoked by the Carolina Panthers, 17-6, while giving up five sacks and three turnovers. Really, they’ve hit rock bottom, right?

Week 11. Maybe they have. Sure, Sunday passes with another loss, this one 17-15 to the Miami Dolphins, but good signs abounded. Like a pulse. And a brain. What wonders a mere seven penalties will do! Also, a nation (well, small bits of a nation getting this broadcast) discovers Johnnie Lee Higgins.

Week 12. Boos from the stands, high hopes beginning to crumble, and an utterly crushing home defeat ... hard to believe it’s the Raiders doling out the punishment, but do they ever. Raiders 31, Broncos 10.

Also, Javon Walker catches a touchdown pass. Al Davis immediately writes him out a check for $11 million. (Well, he might as well have.)

Week 13. Optimism fades a bit as Oakland loses to a bunch of guys named Tyler, Connor and Devard Darling. Meanwhile, silliness swamps the national discourse on the NFL with the debate raging as to whether the 2008 AFC West is the worst division of all time.

In the college ranks, young Kiffin accepts a scholarship to play for the University of Tennessee ... no, wait, accepts the job as head coach of the University of Tennessee. At the press conference formally “introducing” Kiffin to media, the ex-Raiders coach giggles through an answer or two about his tenure with his former team. Warren Sapp arrives to slap Kiffin for stealing his routine.

Week 14. A 34-7 loss to the Chargers is hardly surprising, as we’ve learned in 2008 what traveling to the West Coast can do to teams. Hey, wait a minute...

Week 15. The red-hot New England Patriots generally embarrass the Raiders in a 49-26 win. On the other hand, how about that Johnnie Lee Higgins! And Justin Miller!

Assistant offensive line coach James Cregg resigns from the Raiders effective immediately to go join Kiffin at Tennessee; this unexpected backstabbing triggers a tirade from Cable, who complains that Kiffin should have taken Greg Knapp, John DeFilippo and probably Rob Ryan, too.

Week 16. Cable declares effusively and repeatedly that he wants to keep the position of interim head coach for the Raiders. The Raider Nation collectively forcibly grins outwardly, while inwardly hoping against hope the man’s not serious.

Week 17. Two wins in a row? Two freaking wins in a row? This early into the Tom Cable era? Whoa.

This week. Playoffs begin. Raiders fans begin planning their trips to Miami for February 2010.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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