With uncertain future, appreciate Raiders' really good present

With uncertain future, appreciate Raiders' really good present

The euphoria surrounding the Oakland Raiders at this moment is less than you think it is. And this is a good thing for them.

Yes, they broke 13-year streaks without a winning record or a postseason appearance. Yes, they have regained control of their own fate because KCGKC (Kansas City Gonna Kansas City), because Denver is now in full-fledged retreat and because the San Diego Chargers are now fleeing the jurisdiction entirely. Yes, they are 10-5 on the road in the two seasons under Riverboat Jack Del Rio, in case they cannot close out the AFC West and have to face their fate in foreign lands.

Why, Las Vegas and the NFL’s annual How Do We Screw Mark Davis This Time meeting seems weeks away,

But there was no overwhelming wave of joy emanating from the postgame scenes, no quotes claiming that this team avenged the spirit of the Ethereal Al by beating the late-game-failure-tempered Chargers. The Raiders seemed, perhaps amazingly when you consider the history here, momentarily pleased but nowhere near satisfied.

It is as if the players, having rejected the historical weight of a franchise that has seven winning seasons in the last 30 years, have embraced the notion of the difficult slog ahead. They are fully ensconced in the now, and the now is difficult.

They want it all, and all is very hard to come by. But they have one of the six chairs, and except for the seeding argument to come, they’re doing fine by keeping their eyes on the only prize there is.

The one in front of them.

Surprisingly (at least to me, and let’s be honest, I’m all that matters as this is being typed), there have been six Super Bowl champions who were coming off a non-winning season, most recently New Orleans in the 2009 season (the Saints were 8-8 the year before). Indeed, in the NFL’s Total Crapshoot Era, three consecutive teams managed the feat – St. Louis in 1999 (the Rams were 4-12 in 1998), Baltimore (the Colts were 8-8 the year before, 6-10 the year before that, and in Cleveland two years before that) and New England in 2001 (5-11 in the first year of The Belichick).

Oh, and in case 49ers fans get that Hello Kitty face, San Francisco did it in 1981, the season after coming off a 6-10 year and two 2-14s before that. There. Happy?

In short, what the Raiders would do in case the ultimate happens is not unprecedented – unless Davis suddenly becomes very persuasive in the owners meeting that determines his fate and gets to lead the victory parade straight down 880 and out of town.

In fact, he might almost be better off not seeing his team win the Super Bowl, since that would only impress more owners on the continued viability of Oakland as a superior market, and convince them all the more that Las Vegas is too Sheldon Adelson’d for their comfort.

But that’s too weird, too “Major League” to mentally envelop right now, so let’s let that simmer.

The point at this sitting is that the Raiders’ history literally has nothing whatsoever to do with their immediate future. They will go deep into January (or maybe even February) or flame out quickly on their own merits on the day in question, and you can’t ask for a fairer deal than that.

In short, you can quibble about Derek Carr’s individual results the last couple of weeks, just like any other fan. You can marvel at the continued Khalil Mackness of it all. You can make a cult figure of Del Rio, especially if he coaches a game dressed as a riverboat gambler for that special 4th-and-13 conversion against Houston.

In other words, the Raiders do not have to concern themselves with the rearview mirror at all, because they will not even be the best worst-to-first team ever. Those ’99 Rams had nine consecutive losing seasons and a winning percentage of .227 before winning it all – much worse than Oakland’s .302.

So yes, Oakland’s history here stinks, and its future is uncertain, but the present is really very good, and in a game whose coaches preach staying in the moment to the point at which you want to hit them behind the ear with a wrench just to make them stop saying it, all these Raiders have is the moment.

And like we said, you can’t ask for a fairer deal than that.

Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018


Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018

The Raiders signed veteran running back Doug Martin on Thursday, prompting many to believe the move meant the end of Marshawn Lynch's time in Oakland.

But as it has been expected, Martin is just another piece to go along with Lynch in the Raiders' backfield. According to multiple national reports, Lynch will remain in Silver and Black this upcoming season. 

The news will become official when the Raiders pay Lynch his $1 million roster bonus on Sunday. 

“One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We’ll see what happens," Jon Gruden told Insider Scott Bair at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of this football team.”

Lynch, 31, rushed for 891 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017. 

New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'


New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'

Rashaan Melvin has the supreme confidence of a No. 1 cornerback, with none of the pedigree. Top cover men are often drafted high, paid well or both, with a steady ascent to elite status.

This undrafted talent bounced around the league without job security, trying and often failing to find NFL footing.

Melvin spent time with Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Miami again before establishing himself in Indianapolis. The Colts gave him a real shot and he took advantage, evolving into the team’s top cornerback. Last year was Melvin’s best, but it didn’t provide a long-term contract despite a bull market for cover men.

Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday, the type of prove-it deal that could establish a big payday down this time next year. The 28-year old doesn’t consider that pressure. Melvin knowns another big year's on the way, one that proves he's an elite cornerback

"I’m here to dominate the league," Melvin said Friday in a conference call. "It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”

Melvin wouldn’t trade his long road for a conventional path, and believes experience both good and bad has prepared him for a pivotal season.

“I’ve been cut four times,” Melvin said. “I’ve been in four different locker rooms, and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust as well. My confidence just grows over time. There are not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”

Melvin’s work ethic is unquestioned. His reputation as a grinder is well documented, especially after establishing himself in Indianapolis. Commitment to a craft has created a player with consistent coverage and ball skills.

Melvin was excellent last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Melvin created an incomplete pass (combining passes defensed and interceptions) on 23.6 percent of his targets.

Passers had a 60.3 passer rating against him in 2017, with just 29 completions for 328 yards on 55 targets. The passer rating was 86.6 in 2016, his only other season as a regular starter.

The Raiders need that type of player on the outside. They’ve had inconsistent cornerback play (that’s being kind) in recent seasons, and are hoping Melvin provides stability at a key position. The Northern Illinois alum has loftier aspirations, individually and as the leader of a young position group.

“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “I’m going to show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field, but outside as well.”

Paying $6.5 million for all that would be a bargain. Melvin’s the key acquisition in a secondary built around 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph and 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley. This secondary can be solid if those guys can realize potential and Melvin’s a true No. 1 cornerback.

He considers that title appropriate, and is ready to show he’s more that a one-year wonder. The Raiders have great confidence in Melvin, something clear after targeting him early in the free-agent process. Financing’s always a big factor, but Friday’s meeting with head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Derrick Ansley convinced Melvin that Oakland’s a proper fit.

“I can relate to these guys,” Melvin said. “They have big plans for me, big plans for the organization. I was born to be a part of something special; that’s happening in Oakland. It was a good thing. We were able to get everything done, a deal done. I’m just excited to be here and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as a team and me as a player.”