In 2015, the Oakland Raiders finished the season with a 7-9 record, and while the team was hopeful for a better outcome, it proved the team was knocking at the door of something special. Prior to 2016, the Silver and Black hadn't achieved an eight-win season since 2011, but last season the team did more than eclipse that benchmark.
The Raiders put the AFC West – and the league – on notice that they were determined to win, as they rattled off a six-game winning streak, finished with 12 wins overall, and solidified a spot in the postseason for the first time in 14 years.
Coaches around the division recently shared their thoughts about the Silver and Black at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix.
Let's see what they had to say.
** Denver Broncos
Towards the end of the Broncos' 2016 season, Head Coach Gary Kubiak decided it was time to hang up his headset, and retire from the NFL. Naturally, John Elway, the Vice President of Football Operations, began his search for a replacement following Kubiak's retirement.
The two-time Super Bowl champion, and Hall of Fame quarterback, wound up selecting former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to be the next head coach of the Broncos.
Joseph has yet to face the Silver and Black as their new man at the helm, but is well aware of the team's signal-caller, and offered high praise when asked about what stands out regarding the Raiders.
"Your first thought goes to the quarterback, I mean he [Derek Carr] had a great year," said Joseph. "He's going to have a hell of a career, he's a Pro Bowl type quarterback, that's obviously a concern for us."
Joseph didn't stop there, he continued on to talk about what makes the team a dominant force altogether.
"Offensive line-wise they're big, they're physical, they run the ball on their terms," Joseph added. "And outside of that they've got two receivers outside with [Michael] Crabtree and [Amari] Cooper that are Pro Bowl-type guys. It's an offense that's going to be tough to contain. Defensively they're a fast playing group that takes the ball away."
Kansas City Chiefs
For years, the Raiders and the Chiefs have battled it out on the gridiron in what is typically a physical game. For Head Coach Andy Reid, the rivalry is one of his favorite aspects when the two teams collide. Last season was no different, as both the Chiefs and the Raiders clinched spots in the playoffs, and were pitted against each other in a race for the division title. The Chiefs ended up winning that battle by a narrow margin, but Reid believes Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio has established a winning culture with the team.
"Jack does a heck of a job," said Reid. "He's got a great club, a quarterback who's special, a defensive end that's special, and they've surrounded with that other group around them."
The Chiefs and Raiders are both coming off impressive seasons, and for the foreseeable future will continue to go toe-to-toe in some physical bouts, and Reid seems more than okay with that.
"I love it," added Reid. "I love that rivalry, I think it's good for the NFL."
Los Angeles Chargers
Similar to the Broncos, the Bolts will have a new leader in 2017, one who also served as a former coach to an AFC team last season. Anthony Lynn will take over the reins for the Chargers next season, and is no stranger to the challenges the Raiders present.
Originally the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills last season, Lynn was promoted to interim head coach in late-December, after Rex Ryan was relieved of his duties. Now the head coach in Los Angeles, Lynn will be tasked with stopping a trifecta of potent teams in the AFC West.
While speaking with the media in Arizona, Lynn recalled his last run-in with the Silver and Black, and referenced the team's high-powered offense.
"We [Buffalo Bills] faced them last year, we had them down and they came back; the quarterback came back and scored like 20 unanswered points," Lynn said to reporters. "Good football team and a young stud at quarterback."