'Nobody believed in us' mantra rings true for Raiders and Texans

'Nobody believed in us' mantra rings true for Raiders and Texans

So it is generally agreed then that the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans will gather Saturday afternoon to play what will almost surely be one of the least aesthetically pleasing playoff games in recent NFL history.

And it should be agreed that that is so, for the reasons that have been enumerated again and again – quarterbacks, defenses, no chance of foul weather to impact play, even the uniforms will be a case of the bland meeting the drab.

But therein lies the mutant beauty of Saturday’s game. It has literally no expectations, save those placed upon it by the two fan bases. Plus, it allows the winning team to say with complete confidence and accuracy the one thing most winning teams have no business saying, under any circumstances ever.

“Nobody believed in us.”

In this case, you see, it is absolutely true. Starting last week, nobody did believe in either team, for the unassailable reason that nobody should have done so.

And you can't do better than that.

The Raiders went from championship contenders to the world’s unluckiest team when quarterbacks Derek Carr and (to a massively lesser extent) Matt McGloin got injured in successive weeks. The Texans, conversely, are singlehandedly midwifing score differential into common use, and they are back to first-then-second-string quarterback Brock Osweiler after trying desperately to exile him to the dustheap of football history.

Or Pro Football Reference, as it is more commonly known.

Either way, nobody thinks either of these teams has more than one game in it, and most analysts are straining for new ways to discredit both teams – all the way up to declaring that both teams will lose Saturday, which will tie the record set in 1970 when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions, 5-0, en route to losing what many people believe is the worst Super Bowl ever.

Hurray rampant judgmentalism!

So when Khalil Mack or Alfred Blue, Michael Crabtree or DeAndre Hopkins, Latavius Murray or Lamar Miller, even Sebastian Janikowski or Shane Lechler – when any of them say “Nobody believed in us,” take them at their word. Because nobody did.

Clichés, you see, are a stealthily precious thing. Everyone claims to loathe them as the zenith of unoriginal thought, yet they became clichés because everyone used them. “It is what it is” didn’t become a thing until the early 2000s, but was first coined (as near as anyone can claim) by a Nebraska newspaper columnist named J.E. Lawrence in 1949, which is exactly the same year that “Winning isn‘t everything, it’s the only thing” was introduced by UCLA football coach Red Sanders.

The problem with “nobody believed in us” is that it is typically a complete and utter lie. Most winning teams have had massive bandwagons constructed on their collective behalf that players either chose to ignore, assume as their due or were convinced didn’t exist by their deceit-riddled coaches whose jobs include lying shamelessly to their players whenever the need suits them.

Most players know they are being lied to, of course, but they know that repeating the lie is better for their continued employment than “What are you talking about, you thick-necked bellowing eejit? We have lots of people who believe in us, and we don’t appreciate your disingenuous behavior being aimed at us for reasons of mind control."

So “nobody believed in us” is the safe fallback position. In fact, Alabama football staffers put fake “nobody believed in us” media quotes on the locker room walls before the Crimson Tide went out and curb-stomped Washington in the national championship semifinal. Not because it necessarily works, but because not doing it is considered a lack of devotion to the greater goal.

So Raiders-Texans is in its way a special moment for everyone, because they bring an overly misused and essentially stupid cliché to life. In fact, we would be very disappointed if the first postgame on-field interview did not produce those very words, perhaps as quickly as the first four words uttered.

At which point the interviewer, almost certainly ESPN's Lisa Salters since that's the network that is airing the game, should say, “What, are you nuts? Of course we didn’t believe in you. Only a moron would even think of doing so. Now go away.”

Followed immediately by the rapture.

Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman


Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wanted veterans to help turn his defense around. He added a linebacker and defensive backs aplenty. Then, on Friday night, he gave the front some help.

Former 49ers defensive lineman Tank Carradine will sign with the Raiders, the 28-year old announced on his Instagram page. 

The Sacramento Bee first reported the news. 

He visited the Raiders on Thursday and was in Seattle earlier Friday, but will sign with the Silver and Black.

Carradine could help their transition to a more traditional 4-3 alignment, able to play end in the base defense. He has proven himself as a solid run defender, but believes he can be an effective pass rusher if given the opportunity.

Carradine didn’t get many pass-rushing chances with the 49ers, who generally removed him on passing downs. He has 5.5 sacks in four professional seasons. He played 37.9 percent of 49ers defensive snaps during eight games with the 49ers last season. He missed the same amount on short-term injured reserve with an ankle injury.

At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, he has the size to be a 4-3 base end. He’ll likely have to battle Mario Edwards Jr. for snaps opposite Khalil Mack, though Bruce Irvin will take that spot in sub packages.

Carradine will be the 10th free-agent signing expected to make the roster, which means the roster turnover this summer should be significant. 

Here was his Instagram post from Friday night: 

Proud to become an Oakland Raider! Let's go #raiders#nation

A post shared by Cornellius Smith (@tank.carradine) on

Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary


Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary

The Raiders started this offseason looking to revamp their secondary around their last two first-round picks. Gareon Conley would start at one cornerback spot. Karl Joseph was penned at strong safety.

Every other job, however, was wide open and likely filled from the outside.

Safety Marcus Gilchrist came aboard Thursday, but one premium spot remained open opposite Conley. Veteran cornerback Rashaan Melvin took it Friday afternoon, agreeing on terms of a one-year $6.5 million contract.

NFL Network broke the news of a bargain compared to other cornerback free-agent deals. They aren’t attached to him long term, and Melvin can sign a bigger deal if he plays well in 2018.

The Raiders declared interest in the former Indianapolis cornerback early this week and worked toward an agreement sealed during a Friday morning visit at the team’s Alameda practice facility.

The 28-year old’s fresh off a career year, allowing just 29 receptions for 328 yards and two touchdowns on 55 targets in 2017. He had three interceptions and 13 passes defensed. Quarterbacks had a paltry 60.3 passer rating against him.

Melvin stands 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and has the athleticism to excel in Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system.

Melvin bounced around before settling with the Colts, struggling to find footing in Tampa Bay, Baltimore New England and two offseason programs in Miami. He found a home in Indianapolis, and became a regular starter in 2016. His breakout 2017 season was cut short by a hand injury that kept him out the last five games.

Melvin projects to start right away. The Raiders will be thrilled if he stays healthy and retains recent form. Melvin has solid ball skills, regularly forces incompletions and thrived in tough assignments that came with being the Colts’ top cornerback.

Gilchrist’s addition, Melvin’s deal and the Friday addition of Shareece Wright fills a cupboard in the defensive backfield laid bare by design.

The Raiders cut David Amerson and now-jailed Sean Smith this offseason. TJ Carrie took a big deal in Cleveland. Reggie Nelson’s allowed to walk as a free agent.

The Raiders added three free agents to the group thus far, and could well draft another defensive back next month.

They’ll have safety Obi Melifonwu in reserve – he’ll have to earn a role after missing most of 2017 with injury – and cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and Dexter McDonald vying for spots.

Melvin will be plenty motivated to have a big year and cash in at age 29, for what might be his last shot at a big payday.