The Raiders are working hard to get their guys some hardware. They’re campaigning for Josh Jacobs to be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, a worthy cause, and for Maxx Crosby to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, an honor seemingly earmarked for 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa.
The team has some awards coming their way from us at NBC Sports Bay Area no matter what, honoring several Raiders for efforts good and bad this season. And, since we have a voting body of one and that’s me, I was open to bribes. Alas, none came.
So these honors were handed out on merit alone, with some conventional honors and some completely off-the-wall ideas. Take a look at who won what as I try to print out some certificates the guys will absolutely cherish for the one moment it’s in their hand before throwing it into the trash.
M-V-P! M-V-P!: RB Josh Jacobs
The first-round draft pick simply was awesome in a rookie year where he instantly looked like a top-five back. The Alabama product is physical, aggressive and doesn’t care one bit about what you think. He hands-down should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year and already is one of the NFL’s best during a season where he proved tough enough to take on a massive workload. He missed three of the final four games with a fractured shoulder, an ailment he played through for weeks.
That might take him out of voter’s minds for OROY, but it didn’t change the opinion here that Jacobs deserves a higher team honor. He’s the unquestioned MVP, especially for setting the offensive tone after Antonio Brown went nuclear. The Raiders became a run-centric offense and the yards kept coming even after the whole world knew he was getting the ball. Impressive stuff from a runner getting compared to Hall-of-Fame players. Jacobs should be an elite running back for years to come.
Gruden’s greatest mistake: Antonio Brown trade
The Raiders got Antonio Brown for a rock bottom price. The gave up just third-round pick and a fifth-round selection for the steadiest producer in the game, a practice warrior who was nothing short of awesome during his run with Pittsburgh.
Head coach Jon Gruden made that deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers and created packages making Brown the offensive centerpiece. Those plays ended up fueling a dumpster fire. Brown was volatile at best, leaving a mushroom cloud in his wake after getting cut by the Raiders just days before the season started (and his $15 million base salary would’ve become guaranteed).
He created an oil fire that actually galvanized the locker room and bumped up the Raiders’ level of play early in the season. They couldn’t live on adrenaline alone and eventually wore down. That’s when Brown’s absence was most glaring. He was probably worth two or three wins on the roster, but that wasn’t possible after the issues he created. A trade that once looked like a steal become a pockmark on the season. While they didn’t get anything of value from Brown, at least they didn’t have to pay him a dime.
Biggest surprise: DE Maxx Crosby
I had to google Maxx Crosby when the Raiders took the edge rusher from Eastern Michigan. The guy had one Division 1 offer and a bunch of numbers against small-school competition. He was too light. Couldn’t play the run. He was all motor and not enough athleticism. That’s what the draft profiles said, anyway. Boy, were they wrong. Crosby evolved into a three-down edge rusher more than capable against the run. He also finished the year with 10.5 sacks. That’s a massive number from someone who broke his hand during the preseason and wasn’t a full-time player until Week 4.
Few saw this rookie year coming from Crosby, who should anchor one edge for years. Mike Mayock struck gold with this mid-round pick.
Breakout season: TE Darren Waller
Darren Waller had 1,145 receiving yards as a tight end and didn’t make the original Pro Bowl roster. Absolute travesty. There is, however, a logical reason why. Pro Bowl voting is often a popularity contest skewed toward established stars and players on good teams.
Nobody knew what to make of Waller early in the year. Maybe they had never heard of him. Waller had been around but spent most of his career suspended over substance abuse issues. He got clean and signed off Baltimore's practice squad in 2019 and blew up the following year. His story is inspiring. His play is downright dominant, and fully earned the contract extension given around midseason. Waller’s an elite talent. After a breakout season, the whole league knows how good he is.
Biggest disappointment: WR Tyrell Williams
This was a tough call, with Williams and slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner not living up to huge free-agent contracts.
Williams gets the nod here after failing to be the No. 1 receiver the Raiders needed him to be after Brown left. He’s a top-tier No. 2, but injuries led to ineffectiveness and flushed out a pedestrian first year for the Raiders. It may double as his last, with the Raiders able to get out from under the $44 million pact without dead money attached.
Despite him being here, we can’t underscore how much his painful, season-long bout with plantar fasciitis hindered his production. Sticking with Williams might be a smart long-term play, though even the receiver himself admits this was as frustrating a year as he has ever had.
Best cameo: S Johnathan Abram
The No. 27 overall NFL draft pick was a bit too amped for his NFL debut. The do-everything safety was hitting hard during a Week 1 contest with Denver, maybe while sacrificing technique to do it. Abram ended up getting himself hurt in that game, suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He went on injured reserve and never was eligible to return.
His energy and tone-setting style were sorely missed on the back end, where Curtis Riley and eventually Erik Harris were enlisted to replace the energetic Mississippi State product. The Raiders could’ve been much better in the back with Abram available. His time as an Oakland Raider was far too brief, essentially giving the 2020 team another first-round pick to debut in Las Vegas.
Heat-seeking missile award: FB Alec Ingold
You might assume this goes to Jacobs for his over-the-top touchdowns this season. You’d be dead wrong. It goes to fullback Alex Ingold for his leap over the pile as a lead blocker against the Chicago Bears in London. Jacobs flew into the end zone right behind him thanks to expert path creation that was a little nuts. Ingold was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted free agent who earned a major role and pairs well with Jacobs.
Defies expectations award: RT Trent Brown
Trent Brown was damn good before signing a four-year, $66 million deal last offseason. His then-record deal reflects that. But there were questions about his work ethic and whether he would mail it in after getting paid. That was not the case. Brown was a locker room leader more than willing to take younger tackles under his wing. He was awesome on the field, allowing the Raiders to help other areas with extra protection, and respected presence who earned his money in his first Raiders season.
Worst use of nachos: Anonymous Black Hole resident
Even if you just get the molten cheese and forgo fancy toppings, stadium nachos aren’t cheap. They’re certainly bought to be eaten, not flung onto the field in frustration after the Raiders blew a late lead in the Oakland Coliseum finale. The crowd turned hostile at that point, flinging water bottles down on players trying to say goodbye to fans. Real classy, Raider Nation. The nacho throw, however, is etched in everyone’s mind as an example of how that last East Bay game went so wrong.
The lighting rod award: QB Derek Carr
Love Derek Carr or hate him. There’s apparently no middle ground among the fan base. Arguments get ugly on the topic of whether Carr is a good quarterback worthy of continued employment with the Raiders.
Proponents argue with stats. Critics argue with win totals. Nobody can see the other side. They yell and scream and fill his mentions with filth. Carr can’t do right at this point. He can’t play well enough. He can’t say anything without taking flak.
He said leaving Oakland would be a breath of fresh air, and he isn’t wrong. Let’s not forget he got booed off the field in his last two Oakland Coliseum games. That's a sad ending for a player who has been darn good for a long time.
It’s not his fault he has got through two rebuilds and a billion play callers and, as everyone forgets, wins are not a quarterback stat.