The 2016 Oakland Raiders are bringing true meaning to the famous words of its legendary owner, Al Davis — Just Win, Baby.
As Al Davis once famously exclaimed, “Just Win, Baby”. Those words would go on to become the war cry of Raider Nation and its beloved Oakland Raiders.
But since this franchise last fielded a competitive product in 2002, those words have really been only that — words. Since the Super Bowl appearance, the Raiders have won a total of 74 games — which averages out to 5.6 per season. This stretch includes zero winning records, zero postseason appearances.
Even though the team was awful, “Just Win, Baby” never lost its mystique. There was always hope that this team would return to its once winning ways.
It took longer than anyone would have liked, but in 2016, that is exactly what Al’s Raiders are doing. They’ve returned to their winning ways. Even though he isn’t here to see it (RIP), this young team has brought true meaning to his famous phrase.
With Derek Carr at the helm and Khalil Mack striking fear into opposing QBs, the Raiders are 9-2 and have clinched their first winning season since 2002. Perhaps with one more win, a playoff drought that has lasted that same length will also come to an end.
How they got to this point is truly remarkable.
Coming off a 7-9 campaign in 2015, the Raiders, although expected to improve, were pegged in most sportsbooks for a win total of 8.5. Taking the over would give Oakland 9 wins, and perhaps with some good fortune, they could grab another win somewhere on the schedule and sneak into a wild card spot.
Yet here we are, 11 games into the season plus a bye week, and the Raiders already have 9 wins.
So how exactly did the Raiders get to his point?
The answer is as simple as it is complex. It can be explained as simply as “good teams find ways to win” and as complicated as all of the details that have led to the 9 wins thus far.
It all started with the season opener on the road against the New Orleans Saints. A hard-fought game that was capped by a late Oakland touchdown to tie the game — except the Raiders didn’t go for the tie.
Jack Del Rio sent his offense out for a two-point conversion — the Raiders were playing to win the game. Bill Musgrave dialed up a fade route to Michael Crabtree, and Carr placed the ball in the perfect spot. Two points on the board and the Raiders opened up the season with a W.
That decision and that play set the tone for the entire year.
Del Rio would go on to call several more two-point conversions in other games, as well as make some bold decisions on 4th down. Almost all of which have paid off. And you can bet “BlackJack” Del Rio’s hot streak will keep on rolling, because you never leave the table on a heater.
But even though the Raiders are winning, that doesn’t mean that it’s been stress free. Quite the opposite, actually, as there has been no shortage of stress in the 2016 season, with Carr leading the Raiders to 5 come-from-behind victories in the 4th quarter.
There also has been no such thing as a “comfortable” game for the Raiders. 8 out of Oakland’s 11 games have been decided by 7 or less points. They have won all but one of them.
Time and time again, the Raiders have simply found a way to win.
That rang true again on this most recent Sunday. After choking a 24-7 halftime lead, with their franchise quarterback nursing a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand, the Raiders faced their toughest challenge yet.
And as they’ve done all season, somehow, someway, they found a way to win.
Derek Carr engineered a touchdown drive that was capped by yet another successful two-point conversion to tie the game. And then his next time on the field, Carr led his troops into the red zone, and Sebastian Janikowski kicked what would prove to be the game-winning field goal.
At 9-2, the Raiders control their own destiny for a first-round bye in the playoffs, and are a serious threat for the #1 seed in the AFC.
The stage is being set — you know which stage I’m talking about. A potential playoff showdown in a certain game against a certain opponent.
But in order to get to that point, and beyond, the Raiders will need to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
And you know what this is?
Just Win, Baby.