Every franchise has their fair share of 'what ifs', and here, we take a look at the five biggest ones in the history of the Las Vegas Raiders organization.
The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the most successful organizations in NFL history, winning three Super Bowls, and producing some of the more legendary players in the history of the game. However, if a few things would have gone differently, they could have been even more successful, and we dive into them here.
The Raiders have struggled for nearly 20 years, as injuries, missed draft picks, and mismanagement of the organization has plagued them consistently. Making the playoffs only once since 2002 is criminal when you think about the storied history of this franchise.
The franchise has been a part of some of the craziest games, controversies, trades, and injuries in NFL history, a lot of which explains the inconsistency of the Raiders as a franchise. Still, they remain one of the more beloved franchises in NFL history as well, and Raider Nation is as strong now as it has ever been.
With that said, let's take a look at some of the biggest 'what ifs' in Raiders history.
What if the fumble was not overturned
In the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game, the then-Oakland Raiders faced off against the New England Patriots in a game that would go down as one of the most controversial games in NFL history. The team was beating the Patriots 13-10 in the fourth quarter when Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady, forcing a fumble which the Raiders would recover.
Unfortunately, after review, the ball was given back to the Patriots after the refs decided that Brady's arm was moving forward during the process. The Patriots would go on to tie the game with a field goal, and would end up winning the game in overtime by a score of 16-13.
If the fumble was not overturned, Oakland would have defeated the Patriots and moved on to the AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that the Patriots would go on to defeat 24-17. Although the Steelers were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, it would have been an extremely winnable game for that Raiders team, although defeating the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl would have been a bold task.
If the Tuck Rule game never happened, Jon Gruden may not have been traded, the Patriots dynasty may not have ever happened, and the Raiders very well may have won the Super Bowl.
What if Bo Jackson stayed healthy
Bo Jackson was one of the most electrifying figures in all of sports, making the Silver and Black No. 34 jersey one of the most recognizable in the world. Unfortunately, Bo Jackson's career with the team did not last long, as a devastating hip injury derailed what could have been a legendary career.
From 1987-1990, Bo was a big part of bringing the Raiders back to the playoffs, proving to be one of the best running backs in the NFL, and dominating the NFL landscape. Jackson had the potential to be one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, but Raider Nation, along with the rest of the world, will never know just how good he could have been, and for how long.
In Jackson's last season with the Raiders, the team reached the AFC Championship game, but it was in the Divisional Round where his career came to an end. In a seemingly routine play, Jackson dislocated his hip against the Cincinnati Bengals, and developed necrosis of the hip joint.
That spelled the end of his NFL career, and while the Raiders won the game, and advanced to the AFC title game, the team was not he same without Bo in the backfield. The Raiders lost the AFC Championship Game to the Buffalo Bills 51-3, and would not return to that stage for another ten years.
We still have the highlights, but unfortunately, we will never know how good Bo Jackson and the Raiders could have been in the 90's.
What if the Raiders did not draft Jamarcus Russell No. 1 overall
In 2007, the Oakland Raiders selected Jamarcus Russell with the first pick of the NFL draft. This pick would set the team back for years, as Russell became one the biggest busts in NFL history. Although the 2007 draft did not hold many successful quarterbacks, the Raiders could have selected a number of incredible players instead.
The Raiders could have added future Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson, explosive running back Adrian Peterson, cornerstone left tackle Joe Thomas, punishing linebacker Patrick Willis, or shutdown corner Darrelle Revis instead of Russell. They then could have added a quarterback in the first round in 2008.
The Raiders ended the 2008 season with the fourth pick of the NFL Draft, and had they not drafted Russell the year before, anything could have changed. Matt Ryan was selected with the third pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, so if the team could not have selected him, they likely could have ended up with Joe Flacco, which would have been a massive upgrade from Russell.
Instead, the Raiders selected Jamarcus Russell and Darren McFadden in 2007 and 2008, and the team would not have a winning record until 2016, as the Raiders would not find their franchise quarterback until 2014. Imagine a world where Calvin Johnson or Adrian Peterson wore the Silver and Black.
What if the Raiders did not trade Jon Gruden
After the Raiders lost the Tuck Rule game to the New England Patriots in 2001, Al Davis and the Raiders would trade Jon Gruden away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gruden had great success in his four years with the Raiders, never having a losing record, and making the playoffs in back-to-back years, reaching the AFC Championship in 2000.
Once the team moved on from Gruden, the team would reach the Super Bowl immediately after, and would face Jon Gruden's Buccaneers in a game which the Raiders would lose badly. The Raiders were at a clear disadvantage facing off against their former coach, as he dominated his former offense and protege Rich Gannon the entire game.
If the Raiders would not have moved on from Jon Gruden after the 2001 season, the team very well could have won the Super Bowl in 2002, especially considering Gruden was the reason for Gannon's development. After the 2002 season, the Raiders would not have another winning season until 2016.
The organization fell apart after the Gruden trade, and if they kept him around, they may have continued to win behind him and Gannon for years to come. He has returned, and is building the roster back up, so it will be interesting to see if he can once again make this franchise a perennial playoff contender again.
What if Derek Carr didn't break his leg
Derek Carr brought the organization back to their winning ways early in his career, leading the team to the playoffs in 2016 and posting an MVP caliber season. Unfortunately, the worst possible thing happened to the team, as Carr would end up breaking his leg against the Indianapolis Colts in a Week 16 matchup, ending any chance the team had to make a Super Bowl run.
In terms of that season, many people believed that team was the best team in the AFC, and had a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, without Carr, the Raiders had no chance in the playoffs, as Connor Cook made his NFL starting debut against a tough Houston Texans team.
If Carr was never injured, the Raiders not only may have gone far in 2016, but for years to come. The Raiders ended up firing their offensive coordinator after the season, and Carr seemed uncomfortable and less confident. Whether that be because of the coaching changes, or fear of injuries, nothing was the same for Carr or the team after that Week 16 game in 2016.
If that injury never happened, the team may still be winning, Jack Del Rio may still be the team's coach, and Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper may still be with the team. Instead, the team has struggled with a pass rush issue, have had a lack of weapons for Carr, and although they are starting to turn things around, they have not had a winning season since the injury.