In recent years, under head coach and president Jon Gruden, the Las Vegas Raiders, formerly the Oakland Raiders, have failed from a personnel perspective.
They traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for future picks. They flipped Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. And most notably, they traded for Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers, only to see his stock both on and off the field combust and release him without any sort of compensation.
This is not the way to run an NFL team—trading guys who fit your more gradual timeline for win-now players who suggest you’re further along in your rebuild than you really are.
It would have been fine if the Raiders dealt Mack and Cooper and then acted like a normal rebuilding franchise. They didn’t. The Brown acquisition proved as much. Worse still, they don’t seem to have changed their ways. They’ve been linked to signing soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady to replace Derek Carr under center.
This shouldn’t stand. It can’t stand. The Raiders are not ready to compete for a Super Bowl. They finished 7-9 last year, but they’re not on the precipice of anything special. To wit: They ranked 27th in Simple Rating System, a metric that grades teams by accounting for their point differential and strength of schedule. By this measure, the Raiders were, very comfortably, a bottom-seven team.
No one free-agency signing is going to change that. The Raiders have to recognize this. They have to get back to the more deliberate thinking that prevailed in 2012 free agency.
Indeed, that version of the Raiders wasn’t good either. But they had the opportunity to sign an aging Plaxico Burress, who despite not playing in 2009 or 2010, remained a Super Bowl champion and coveted free agent. They passed, and he ended up in Pittsburgh, where he appeared in just four games.
The Raiders, meanwhile, would go on to tally three straight seasons in which they won no more than four games. It was a tough stretch, but embracing that rebuild set them up for a more convincing 7-9 record in 2015 and then a 12-4 finish in 2016.
They need to recapture that kind of thinking now. It might be a long road back to the playoffs, but investing in players that don’t fit the bigger picture will only hamstring their ability to develop youngsters and build a lasting identity that carries them to something better than six or seven wins.