SAN DIEGO – The Raiders didn’t win the Super Bowl on Sunday in San Diego. They didn’t even clinch an AFC West title.
A 19-16 victory over the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium secured the Raiders’ first playoff berth since the 2002 season. That’s something special but, as head coach Jack Del Rio reminds us, “we have designs on more.”
The Raiders want to win a division, a conference title and a league championship. Del Rio has never been afraid to dream big. Those goals can’t be attained right now. They’ll need to stave off Kansas City in the regular season and then go on a playoff run to reach a desired peak.
While we’re here, let’s stop and ponder what was accomplished as Sunday afternoon pushed to evening. Sure, the Raiders are back in the playoffs after a 13-year drought. Let’s think in shorter terms.
They were 0-10 and eventually 3-13 just two seasons ago. They finished 2015 disappointed at 7-9 in Del Rio’s first year here. Now they’re one of the NFL’s best.
Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and the 2014 draft class longed for a quick about face. It seemed easier dreamt than done. Del Rio and staff pushed things along, and general manager Reggie McKenzie kept the talent flowing in. Those divisions worked in concert to reach the postseason.
Getting to this point isn’t an end goal, but it’s certainly an important milestone. That’s especially true for those who pushed through a disastrous 2014 season.
“We wanted to take this team to a place it hadn’t been in 14 years now. That was a part of it when (the 2014 draft class) came in,” Carr said. “We were going to make the playoffs. We were going to turn things around. We had a vision. We had a dream in our hearts.
“When you’re 0-9, 0-10, it seems so far away, but through tough times you find out what kind of person you are. We had to work and grind. Then we went 7-9 and fell short again. We continued work through another offseason, another year. Those days get long. When a group comes together and stays the course, then we can do things like this.”
Staying the course is a major reason why the Raiders are at this point and able to attain more. Del Rio mentioned it in his postgame remarks and thanked owner Mark Davis for trusting him and McKenzie to execute a plan. There were certainly times when McKenzie took serious heat rebuilding the franchise, but Davis stuck by his man. They eventually got the head coach right after a flailing swing at the first pitch, and found a leader in Del Rio who was a correct fit for the franchise.
“Mark Davis has really allowed Reggie and I to do the things that we need to do to make this franchise great again,” Del Rio said. “The whole idea of greatness starts with leadership at the top and him providing us with the resources and the opportunity to grow this football team the way we have over the last two years. I’m very appreciative of that.”
Even with eyes on bigger prizes, Del Rio told his team to enjoy the moment. They aren’t easy to come by. The Raiders hope to contend every year, and make playoff berths commonplace. They aren’t right now, and he knows that. Let the franchise as a whole, from ticket sellers to equipment managers to security personnel bask in a job well done awhile before honing on what’s next.
The players certainly enjoyed it, especially those who remember was 3-13 was like.
“This feels good,” left tackle Donald Penn said who signed with Oakland in 2014. “Especially considering where we came from my first year to now, it’s a big turnaround. I’m happy for Mr. Davis, Mr. McKenzie and all those guys in the front office because they stuck with the plan. They stuck with it. Mr. Davis gave them the trust, and it’s coming to fruition now.”