(Photos courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)
Talk of Fame Network
The Oakland Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002. Worse, they haven’t had a winning season since then. But that could change soon. In fact, if you ask former quarterback Rich Gannon, now with CBS Sports, he’ll tell you it could change now.
And that’s just what we did on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast: Ask the former Oakland star where he sees the Silver and Black headed ... and spoiler alert, Raiders’ Nation: You're going to like his response.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the playoffs in 2016,” he said.
There are a myriad of reasons for Gannon's optimism: Defending Super Bowl champion Denver just lost its top two quarterbacks; the AFC West should be wide open; the Raiders have been better – much better – in recent drafts and Oakland just scored heavily in free agency.
But the biggest reason, Gannon said, is quarterback Derek Carr.
“I think if you go back to that draft class a couple of years ago,” he said, “there were three quarterbacks taken in the first round. Obviously, Johnny Manziel was one of them. You look at Teddy Bridgewater, and you also look at Blake Bortles. And I really think the Raiders got the best quarterback in that draft in Derek Carr.
“The knock on him coming out is that he wouldn’t sit in there in the midst of a rush and set his feet and throw the football. (But) I studied him his rookie year, and he did that a bunch. He didn’t play with a great supporting cast. The offensive line wasn’t very good. They didn’t have any receivers with any speed. And they didn’t have a running game. Yet this kid played well enough to give them a chance to win a lot of football games.
“I just think his accuracy, his anticipation, his arm talent, his toughness, his leadership, his football IQ … I think he’s going to be a really good one when it’s all said and done.”
But Gannon’s enthusiasm doesn’t stop there. He believes Carr is part of a resurrection of a franchise that hasn't been better than 8-8 in any season since Gannon took the Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII and is 62-146 overall dating back to 2003.
“I really like what I see,” Gannon said. “First of all, you’ve got to give (GM) Reggie McKenzie a lot of credit. That was a very tough spot to be in a couple of years ago. They didn’t have the draft picks, and they didn’t have any money to spend in free agency. It was pretty painful those first couple of years. But they went out and hit on the quarterback a couple of years ago … (wide receiver) Amari Cooper last year … (linebacker) Khalil Mack … so they did a nice job with the draft.
“Then they put some pieces in place in free agency. They’ve been very aggressive the last few years spending in free agency. I hope it pays off. I talked to (coach) Jack Del Rio at the combine, and he feels really good about the direction the team is heading.
“I think the next step for them is to have double-digit wins and make the playoffs. And I think that division – the AFC West – is going through a little bit of a transformation right now. You look at Peyton Manning stepping down in Denver and Brock Osweiler leaving in free agency. I think the Raiders have a much better chance now that Manning’s no longer in the division.”
While conceding that Kansas City should be a factor and that Denver’s Gary Kubiak “will put together a plan and focus on running the football,” Gannon insists this could be … maybe should be … the year to jump on the Raiders’ bandwagon.
“They’ve got a good staff, they’ve got some good players and I really like this quarterback,” he said. “I think they have a chance to surprise some people this year.”