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NFL: Las Vegas Raiders before playoff start

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders before playoff start

The Las Vegas Raiders will take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Saturday’s wild card game. This ends a long playoff dry spell. But how they accomplished this feat and what hurdles they had to overcome is hard to believe. A look back at the scandalous and tragic season in Sin City. In a way, with the final siren, kicker Daniel Carlson sank a 47-yard field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime in the last game of the 2021 regular season. It was finally clear: The Las Vegas Raiders are in the playoffs – for the first time since 2016. However, that was only the happy end of a regular season that was anything but smooth. Before Saturday’s wildcard game against the Cincinnati Bengals (10:30 p.m. LIVE on DAZN) – also a rather surprising playoff participant – it’s worth taking a look back at a memorable season that some in Vegas would certainly like to forget quickly, even if that seems difficult. It is particularly noteworthy that in retrospect it is not even clear which scandal was actually the biggest, which secondary theater of war represented the biggest blow to the franchise. The extended season actually started so positively: Edge defender Carl Nassib had himself was the first active NFL player to come out as homosexual and actually received positive reactions across the board. And that had a correspondingly positive effect on the Raiders. From today’s perspective, however, that seems years ago and like a lone star in an otherwise gloomy night sky. Athletically, the Raiders also got off to a good start, beating the favorite Baltimore Ravens after an epic battle in overtime in the first Monday Night Game of the season and the first game at the new Allegiant Stadium in front of spectators. What’s more: The Raiders started the season 3-0 and made people sit up and take notice early on. But then the pitch-black October began.

Las Vegas Raiders: First loss as a bad omen

The Raiders conceded their first defeat again on a Monday evening, but in Los Angeles at the Chargers. And it was a strange evening: The kickoff of the game had to be postponed – despite being completely covered, the new SoFi Stadium could not be played due to a thunderstorm. An episode that is still unbelievable to this day given the price tag of around six billion dollars for this palace in Inglewood, California. From today’s perspective, it was probably also a sign of things that would come to the Raiders afterwards. A few days later, on October 8th, word spread that head coach Jon Gruden was racist in a leaked 2011 email to former Washington franchise official Bruce Allen, the director of the DeMaurice Smith players’ union offended. Gruden himself stated shortly thereafter that he did not remember the e-mail, but tried to put his choice of words into perspective and stated that he had apologized to Smith. However, that was not the end of this cause – not for a long time. Just two days later, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported further emails in which Gruden had insulted Commissioner Roger Goodell. The outcry about this was initially limited, but caused concern, especially since this story was published on the day of the game. On the same day, the Raiders lost their first home game of the season against the Chicago Bears. A day later, the big bang came: The New York Times published an article reporting even more emails. And in those, Gruden is said to have made sexist, homophobic and misogynist statements and thus offended various people. Only a few hours after the report, Gruden resigned as head coach of the Raiders – he did not want to be a disruptive factor for his team, it said in a statement. A statement that missed the point. Special Teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia took over as interim coach, while reactions to the entire Gruden story were mixed. Carr stated, “Don’t get me wrong, I love the man but I hate his sin.” Team owner Mark Davis, on the other hand, kept a low profile for a long time and only commented on the matter at the end of October. The bottom line: He was bothered by the fact that the NFL didn’t notify the Raiders about the emails in the summer, which would have made things easier for the franchise. “Then we could have done something before the season, not in the middle of the season,” Davis explained.

Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders

season victories defeats Placement AFC West
2018 4 12 4.
2019 7 9 3.
2020 8th 8th 2.
2021 5 3 2. (resigned after week 5)

Las Vegas Raiders: Mark Davis prefers to criticize NFL than Gruden

However, Davis could not be elicited any real criticism of Gruden. In general, this was not the case from Raiders circles. After all, one person who came close to criticizing the former head coach, who had actually signed for ten years, was running back Josh Jacobs. After the victory debut under Bisaccia (the Raiders beat the Broncos 34:24 in Game 1 after Gruden), he told the Las Vegas Review: “Man, the sidelines! It was like there was no excitement there. It was weird. It was like everyone was quiet. Nobody yelled insults at you or freaked out at the umpires. None of that.” A clear dig at Gruden, even without having to give his name. What followed was a tragic week, one of the darkest hours for the Raiders: It began with a serious car accident that killed wide receiver Henry Ruggs. Ruggs was speeding and intoxicated when he crashed into a Toyota, which then burst into flames, killing a woman and her dog. Ruggs was released shortly thereafter. And while some teammates and Bisaccia expressed concern, just days later, video surfaced of cornerback Damon Arnette brandishing an automatic weapon and threatening to kill a fan. He, too, was fired as a result. The week ended with Bisaccia’s first loss, an uninspired performance with the New York Giants that nobody really cared about given the week’s events. However, it was the beginning of a sporting low flight, because after the Raiders had even sniffed at the top of the AFC West at times, things went downhill from there: Coming from their bye week, they lost five of their next six games, including two decent packs against the Kansas City Chiefs – overall result: 23:89. The only ray of hope in this phase was a win in – of course – overtime on Thanksgiving in Dallas. Back then, too, it was Carlson who ensured the win. However, bankruptcies against Washington and in KC followed, but then things started to pick up again in mid-December. The team had moved together noticeably, had to cope with a few injuries and still managed to win four in a row – all by just one score difference – even more: only the win in Denver was more than a field goal ahead. © gettyJosh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders have made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Las Vegas Raiders: 2022 doesn’t start smoothly either

Such a series is impressive and shows strong nerves, which could ultimately be an advantage in the playoffs. But even in the midst of that renewed high, things weren’t entirely without their off-field missteps. On January 3, rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs was also arrested for drunk driving. After all, he wasn’t driving and was merely found asleep in his car at the exit of the Las Vegas Strip Casino parking lot. Nevertheless, that also has a bad aftertaste when you think of Ruggs – or Jacobs, who also had an accident near the airport under the influence of alcohol in early 2021. An incident that has almost been forgotten today. Not surprising given the twelve months between the two incidents.

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