The Oakland Raiders dynamic and diverse offense designed by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and orchestrated by second-year quarterback Derek Carr has the analysts talking and the NFL taking notice. The unit's output ranks in the Top 10 in numerous categories including total offense, passing, points per game and 3rd down conversion rate.
Since 2000 the Raiders have had six Top 10 offenses – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2011 and 2015. The 2000-02 squad won three straight AFC West titles, made two AFC Championship game appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. The 2010-11 teams went 8-8 and were on the cusp of playoff berths.
Not since the 2000-02 teams have the Raiders deployed so many exciting, game-breaking weapons. In 2000, it was the Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kaufman rushing attack that led the NFL. In 2001 it was the passing of Rich Gannon and dual receiving threat from Hall of Fame wide receivers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. In 2002 Gannon won the NFL MVP award leading the NFL's top-ranked offense with Brown, Rice, wide receiver Jerry Porter, Wheatley, running backs Charlie Garner and Terry Kirby, and tight ends Doug Jolley and Roland Williams.
Now it's Carr and running backs Latavius Murray, Marcel Reece, and Taiwan Jones, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and tight ends Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford.
Carr is on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards and close to 40 touchdowns. Murray, if he bounces back quickly from a concussion, is on pace for more than 1,100 yards rushing, and Cooper and Crabtree are on pace for more than 80 receptions each and over 1,000 yards receiving each.
"We feel that even though we put up yards and points that we were mad at ourselves because there's so much more that we feel we can do," Carr said. "The stats and all that are fun for people to look at and all that, but for us, it's like, man, we turn the film on and think, man, we missed that opportunity or we missed that play or we missed that chance, and that's what hurts us."
Head Coach Jack Del Rio has stated numerous times that the NFL is a week-to-week league. As much as it seems like the offense is on a roll and building from week-to-week, Coach Del Rio says it is the weekly preparation put in by Coach Musgrave, the assistant coaches and the players that has the offense churning.
"It's different every week," Coach Del Rio said. "I think the staff has done a good job with putting the plan together and the players have done a good job of digesting the plan and then executing the plan on game day. That's what we're after in all three phases."
Coach Musgrave echoes his head coach's sentiments with regard to the weekly challenges.
"Experience helps us, that's for sure," Musgrave said. "As we gain more and more knowledge about ourselves, and also how people are going to defend us. We're hoping to keep climbing and getting better as the season progresses. Each defense is different. Every week is different. We're looking forward to seeing what they have in store for us."
One of the unspoken elements of those teams from 2000-02 was the offensive line. Left tackle Barry Sims, left guard Frank Middleton, center Barret Robbins, right guard Mo Collins and right tackle Lincoln Kennedy kept quarterback Rich Gannon clean and blew open holes for the running backs. So far this season, left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Gabe Jackson, center Rodney Hudson, right guard J'Marcus Webb and right tackle Austin Howard have done that for the 2015 squad.
According to Carr, the offensive line is what makes the whole thing go.
"They're the ones, they should get all the credit," Carr said. "I stand here and do the media stuff and all that, but they're the ones that deserve all the credit, because without them, if I'm on my back, I can't throw the ball, as I've learned through family experience."
In fact, Carr has only been sacked eight times so far this season. In 2002, his brother David was sacked 76 times as the quarterback for the Houston Texans. Meanwhile, Gannon was dropped 36 times that season.
The Raiders offense has avoided injury so far this season. However, that is about to change as Murray goes through the concussion protocol, and center Rodney Hudson deals with an ankle injury. That being said, this offense has proven to have numerous interchangeable parts and explosive weapons that can overcome most adverse situations.
There are numerous parallels with the team and the squad that won three straight division titles. Now, let's see if that translates into the most important stat – wins.