They’ve all seen the sparks, the glimpses of what it could be.
From Head Coach Jon Gruden, to Derek Carr, and players up and down the roster, the flashes have been there – they’ve seen them.
That said, in a season that resulted in just four wins, those glimpses just didn’t last long enough for the 2018 Oakland Raiders.
“We finished the season not making the playoffs, obviously, not the record we wanted, but you see those little glimmers, those little spots of light, in different situations, in different games, and we just have to figure out how we can multiply that, and keep that spark lit up,” said Jalen Richard following the team’s 35-3 Week 17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “Instead of it lighting up and then getting blown out, we have to figure out a way to get it back sparked up again, just keeping it lit. We just have to figure out how to do that.”
Across the board, the Silver and Black’s loss in the season finale was a tough one; squaring off against a team – on the road no less – that needed a win to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs proved to be just too much for the Raiders to handle, and a halftime deficit of 21-3 eventually resulted in a 32-point loss for Coach Gruden and his team.
That said, a look at the bigger picture for the 2018 Raiders will show reasons for optimism going forward.
Carr threw for more than 4,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career – a feat that’s even more impressive when you think about the revolving door that was the Raiders wide receiving corps in 2018 - defensively, the team played a much better brand of football down the stretch, and the Silver and Black look to have struck gold with rookie kicker Daniel Carlson, a fifth-round draft pick cut early in the season by the Minnesota Vikings.
Ultimately, the season will be remembered as a 4-12 outing – a fair token in a league supremely defined by wins and losses – but over the past eight weeks, we’ve come to see that the cupboard is not bare.
“This is a high-effort group of guys,” Coach Gruden said. “We have to add some pieces. We know that, and hopefully we can do that here soon.”
“Because we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, if anything, we learned this season, it’s definitely how to push through adversity,” explained Brandon Parker. “As you saw today, we had a couple of plays that didn’t go our way, but you have to get your head out of your tail, and keep fighting. It’s just a matter of learning and growing from it and getting better in the offseason.”
For both Parker and fellow rookie tackle Kolton Miller, 2018 will be remembered as a year of firsts, and while the duo certainly had their ups and downs, the experience that the pair gained, a combined 31 games, will prove valuable for their development down the road.
“We got a great o-line coach in Coach [Tom] Cable, and we bought into what he was teaching us – the more reps we got, the better we got, just using his technique,” Parker said. “It’s just good development.”
“You look at our two tackles both being rookies, they’re possibly playing against guys that are five to 10 years older than them. That’s a huge difference,” Jordy Nelson said. “I think they’ve battled extremely well, and the most valuable thing is the experience that they got, and I think they did extremely well, especially down the stretch, and once they got comfortable in what they were doing.”
In many senses, 2018 was Year One for the Raiders.
With a new coach, new schemes on both sides of the football, and a plethora of new players, there was a collective understanding that it would take time for the results to manifest, but even so, the goal was always to win.
“This is a league of results,” Parker explained. “Obviously if you’re not producing results, you’re going to be frustrated, but you have to understand, like he [Coach Gruden] said, we’re building a foundation. We may not be getting the results we [wanted], but the whole time, we’re building, we’re learning. A lot of guys got valuable playing time this year are going to come back so much better next year.”
“I was telling Coach, I’m really sick the way it went to finish this season the way we did today, really just getting our a** whooped, really, it’s kind of sickening,” added Richard. “Like you said, it’s kind of a weird place, because you see it. You see guys on the team that really want to win. You see all the effort plays. You see guys breaking their neck to try to get there on this and that, just things weren’t going the right way.”
The 2018 Raiders will gather as a group once more on Monday, and then the players will go their separate ways for the offseason, but even though the final chapter of the 2018 season has been written, the work won’t cease.
In fact, just the opposite.
“We’re really close, and all that means if we haven’t done it yet,” Carr said. “We have a lot of work to do, get a few days off, relaxing, and get back to work.”