If I had to sum up the Oakland Raiders' 2019 season in one word it would be bittersweet.
While it's unfortunate the team finished with a record of 7-9, the Silver and Black accomplished far more than some NFL analysts or fans expected them to. With all of the turmoil and nonsense to start the season, the Raiders overcame the distractions and bonded as a unit.
The biggest upside is that there's something very clear about this group that separates itself from teams in the past: accountability.
From the veterans to the rookies, every player has a sense of accountability and a desire to do more than what's asked of them. Time and again this has been demonstrated this season, but Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos two rookies conveyed why the next generation of Raiders players are mature enough to help carry this team into the future.
On a crucial fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line, the Raiders offense lined up in the I-Formation, and handed the ball off to their trusty rookie fullback Alec Ingold, who bulldozed his way as far as he could through multiple defenders. Initially, it looked like Ingold had broken the plane, but the officiating crew decided otherwise. Head Coach Jon Gruden proceeded to throw the challenge flag, but the call stood. To many watching the game, this was a blatant mistake by the referees; however, when Ingold was asked about the play postgame he made no excuses.
"They didn't call it in, so that's on me," he told reporters. "It shouldn't have been that close at all. My pad level was too high and there's a bunch of different things I could've done. So, it's something I just have to take on the chin and just learn from this offseason."
Later in the game, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow dropped a wide-open pass that would've resulted in a much-needed first down for the offense. He made up for it later though by catching a clutch touchdown to bring the Raiders within one point of the Broncos, but all he could think about was the mistake he made earlier in the game.
"Hunter, like I told you guys, he caught a touchdown and he was like, 'man, I shouldn't have dropped that ball [earlier],'" Derek Carr told the media postgame. "They're only concerned with how they can help the team. When you have 53 guys, plus the practice squad, and the coaches that think that same way — I've been around this thing long enough, honestly, I've been around this thing long enough where I've seen people give in. I've seen people quit. I've seen it over and over again, and I'll never call them out, I never will. But this team doesn't quit."
Coach Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock knew when they teamed up earlier this year that the 2019 Rookie Class would need to make an immediate impact, and that they would be searching for foundational pieces to establish a new culture within the Silver and Black. It's players like Ingold and Renfrow who have lived up to those expectations, along with Josh Jacobs, Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Foster Moreau, and truthfully the entire rookie class, which is inspiring, given where the Raiders were four months ago.
When you look at the direction this team is headed, it's hard not to be excited when the foundation Coach Gruden and Mayock have built consists of guys like Renfrow and Ingold, who aren't willing to make excuses.
This is a new era and even though the Raiders came up just short of the postseason this year, you have to imagine their moment will come soon enough considering the standard every member of this team holds themselves to, especially the rookies.