2016 was a bittersweet year for the Oakland Raiders.
For the first time in 14 years the team clinched a playoff berth; however, just before the postseason started, Derek Carr — in the middle of an MVP-caliber season — suffered a broken leg on Christmas Eve. The injury derailed the team's postseason hopes and ended what could've been a special year.
Following that 12-4 season, the Silver and Black went on to win six games in 2017, struggling to recapture the magic of 2016. Winning seasons have been hard to come by through the years, but Head Coach Jon Gruden is hell-bent on getting this team back to its winning ways. With the acquisition of star wide receiver Antonio Brown, Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock set the precedent this offseason for what's expected of the team going forward.
Brown didn't just become the best wide receiver in the NFL without hard work, practice, and dedication. It's for that reason Gruden and Mayock are so enthralled with the dynamic playmaker. He shows up in practice, he doesn't take days off, and his hunger for a championship will seep throughout the locker room.
Gruden loves football and he wants to coach players who share that same passion. In addition to AB, the Raiders have signed players like tackle Trent Brown and linebacker Brandon Marshall who have a background of winning. Trent Brown is coming off a Super Bowl victory with the New England Patriots, and just a few years ago Marshall hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as a member of the Denver Broncos. These are players with postseason experience and a mentality that will help push many players on the Raiders roster to the next level.
"I've won a lot," Marshall shared during his sit down with Raiders.com. "In Denver we won a lot. I know what it takes to win, I know what kind of habits it takes to win. I know the mindset that you need to have, and the camaraderie that the team needs to have in order to win. I have experience in all of that, so I know some of the guys we brought over, Trent Brown, Antonio Brown and those guys can also attest to the winning culture. We're going to get this thing going in the right direction."
Marshall has spent the last six years with the division-rival Denver Broncos, and has played an integral role on some of the team's dominant defenses. He's played in 69 games, starting in 63 of them, and totaled two interceptions, 423 tackles, six-and-a-half sacks, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble during his time there.
His experience is invaluable, and at only 29 years of age Marshall still has plenty of juice left. The road to the Raiders has been a long one, but he's ready to bring his past experiences to a locker room and a fan base that's thirsty for victory.
"It's contagious," Marshall said when asked about the importance of signing players with championship experience. "To have people that have won and have winning habits, and know the winning habits, to come infect the locker room in a positive way is contagious. We're going to get everybody going in the right direction, and not to say that there aren't winning habits here because I know there are, but you just need that extra push to get you over the hump."
As someone who's spent plenty of time facing the Raiders and Raider Nation, Marshall is thrilled to be on the other side of things now. Playing at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is something he's always enjoyed, and he's looking forward to running out of the tunnel come September.
"I'm excited to be a part of Raider Nation," he said. "I love the fan base, it's so grimy, and I like that. I'm ready to get to work and hopefully we can do some great things here, and I know we will. Get things going in the right direction."
This new wave of players don't like to lose, and I expect them to elevate the bar when it comes to putting tallies in the win column.