The level to which you want to be impressed by the Oakland Raiders is entirely dependent upon your valuation of the two teams they beat -- most specifically the horrifying New York Jets.
But the level to which you want to be inspired as an Oakland resident at the way the Raiders are choosing to say goodbye is not in dispute. It’s been a long time since the Raiders were this Oakland-y, and if you are patient, you will soon find out that Marshawn Lynch’s is but one face of this franchise.
That said, he was the A-clip in this week’s highlight reel, a 45-20 throttling of the relegation-worthy Jets, because of his fourth quarter sideline dance that stamped “Oakland” all over a team that is down to its last two dozen some-odd games here. It capped a thorough and scandalously easy performance in all departments and remarried this team to its town in a more visceral way than last year’s, or the year before that’s, or the Rich Gannon years, or really anything in the last 40 years, give or take a season.
And it is why Jack Del Rio, the coach who stands rigidly for the anthem while Lynch sits ands believes that body language matters in this business, said when asked about Lynch’s dance, “These are his people. These are my people.”
Well, okay, we can go with that if you want to extend the border of Oakland to include everything down to the Fremont line, absolutely. The Raiders will take any and all comers because since they’ve gone to such an effort to reflect the area they are leaving, they may as well go all in and reflect the old-time Raider geography that reached east to Livermore, north to Vallejo, and south to Milpitas.
And in that attempt, this is a team that has something for everyone. The upstanding good citizen in Derek Carr. The aggressively quiet but subtly brilliant Michael Crabtree (who had three touchdown receptions, in case you forgot how the Raiders got to 45). The imperturbably steady rhythm section that is Cordarrelle Patterson (43-yard touchdown run when the Jets were otherwise engaged) and Jalen Richard (52-yard burst through a massive gap five minutes after Patterson’s score). The indomitable forces that are Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards. The purposeful people movers like Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson.
And yes, many names get left out that will have their moments later, and will have to when the Raiders face the bite-back of their season -- the two Denvers, the two Kansas Citys, the New England and perhaps even the Baltimore game as well.
And that’s the thing to remember in all this bonding -- what the Raiders are after is harder to get than merely curb-stomping the Jets. New York is an aggressively poor team, playing for late April as Oakland is playing for early February. Lynch’s dances are not scheduled, but there are likely to be no games as comprehensively easy as this one was. There were so few things that missed the film standard that Del Rio said, “There is always stuff to correct, but we’ll do that with a smile this week.”
As for Lynch, he said little enough after the game, knowing that his sense of tough running during and gift of rhythm after his game was over did all the talking he needed to do. He chooses to speak without filters, leaving you to decide what you think he is all about, satisfied in the knowledge that the people who need to know already do.
But for the record, he said “It felt good” five times, said “we’ve got some playmakers” when asked about the offense, “give it to my mama” when asked what he was going to do with the football from his touchdown, and said he would rather see her than the gathered media.
No dispute with any of it, really, since nobody wouldn't see their mom than some yob with a recorder. Nor was there an issue with the game, nor with its effect upon a city that continues to refuse to show how much the potential departure of the Raiders will hurt.
Maybe the citizens will show more when 2019 comes to its close, or if they never achieve what they all believe is this team’s three-year destiny. Or maybe Oakland is about never showing how much stuff hurts, just as much as it is not showing outsiders what makes the city vibe itself so well.
But if these Raiders are the best metaphor for Oakland, and Lynch is the best metaphor for these Raiders, then ordering a batch while it’s on the menu is the only way to get the maximum value. After all, the Jets won’t come here for awhile, games won’t be this easy, and Lynch may not have so much time for sideline dancing in any other game this year.
Then again, it’s a wonder Lynch wasn’t flagged for excessive celebration or taunting. Now THAT would have been the full Raider experience.