We’ve finally reached the Raiders offseason, bringing a tortuous period to a close where Jon Gruden tore his roster down to the studs. The team finished 4-12, with far less talent than it had this time a year ago. The Raiders weren’t any good, but could’ve been better without several setbacks over the course of the season itself. There were some contributing incidents that took place during the offseason, but will start in training camp and work our way forward in a timeline of where things went south for the Silver and Black in 2018:
July 29: Raiders veterans report to training camp in Napa, but edge rusher Khalil Mack refused to do so without a new contract. The All-Pro was looking for a market-resetting deal for defensive players, and didn’t want to risk injury in football-related activities without long-term security. This prolonged Mack’s absence, which began by skipping the offseason program. There was tension between Mack’s camp and the Raiders, which would only escalate as time advanced.
Aug. 15: Jon Gruden calls Martavis Bryant the “white tiger,” referring to immense talent rarely on display after the receiver missed several camp practices battling migrane headaches. Bryant was also chided for not picking up the offensive system quickly, foreshadowing a messy relationship between player and team.
He was subsequently cut before the regular season and signed shortly thereafter. He was never a consistent target before ending up on injured reserve. He was there when the NFL banned him for violating conditions of his reinstatement following a suspension under the substance abuse policy.
That ended Bryant’s tenure with the team, making the third-round pick the Raiders traded to Pittsburgh for him a complete waste.
Sept. 1: Mack was traded to Chicago for a compensation package that included two first-round picks, though a second-rounder was shockingly given back to the Bears.
The season hinged on this trade, when optimism went out the window and Gruden started a roster teardown to acquire tools necessary for a full-scale roster rebuild this offseason. It was controversial -- many say ill-advised, even with a long holdout possible. The timing was odd, considering the Bears’ draft slot was a variable. That has proved to be a major flaw in the deal, with Mack making the Bears so good the 2019 first-round pick will fall near the bottom.
Sept. 19: Gruden and the Raiders tried to put the Mack trade in the past quickly, though his nationally-televised performances made that hard to do. Gruden didn’t help matters by saying, “pass rushers are hard to find.” That was played on loops across the country, reminding everyone the Raiders traded an elite pass rusher before the regular season began. The Mack trade was an overarching theme that hung over the season, and will until the Raiders start using the draft picks acquired for him to improve the roster.
Sept. 30: Donald Penn suffered a season-ending groin injury that thrust third-round pick Brandon Parker into the starting lineup at right tackle. Parker wasn’t all bad, but protection was an issue that wouldn’t have been as big if Penn were available all year, even at a new position.
Oct. 14: Marshawn Lynch was the team’s best offensive player early this season, and a leader on the field with his aggressive rushing style. His loss due to injury sent the offense into a bad place, struggling for first downs and touchdowns alike. This was a big blow to an offense that lost direction after Lynch went down.
Oct. 16: Derrick Johnson wasn’t used much and was given his release, a sign that some of the aging veterans signed in free agency weren’t going to work out. That left the Raiders to play young kids at key spots and let them grow up on the job.
Oct. 22 A.M.: Amari Cooper was traded to Dallas for a first-round pick, furthering the belief that Gruden was in the midst of a full-scale teardown and a pervading, though inaccurate theory that the Raiders were tanking.
The Raiders got great value for Cooper, a dynamic talent who can blow up at times and disappear at others. He would’ve cost a pretty penny when eligible for an extension, maybe more than he was worth. The Raiders cut bait when a first-round pick was offered. The Raiders got another top draft slot, and the Cowboys got a player who led them to the NFC East title. That’s a virtual win-win, though the Raiders were slammed for trading yet another superstar.
Oct. 22 P.M.: The Cooper trade went over like a lead balloon, and was followed with reports that quarterback Derek Carr had lost parts of the locker room and that Gruden’s moves had frustrated veteran portions of the roster. It was yet another distraction weighing the midseason down, forcing tight end Lee Smith to come to Carr’s defense. Gruden’s plan and the face of the Raiders' franchise were under siege at this point, and it would get worse before things got better.
Oct. 30 A.M.: Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie retired, becoming an example of veteran frustration with the Raiders and their direction under Jon Gruden. This 1-6 team was in the midst of a teardown and suddenly skewing younger, with many veterans disenchanted with Gruden’s vision for the season.
Oct. 30: The NFL trade deadline passed without any more Raiders shipped out, despite Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley reportedly on the block late in the trading window.
The Raiders tried to move Bruce Irvin and couldn’t do it, upsetting a veteran who was clearly being phased out of the Raiders plans.
Nov. 1: The Raiders reached rock bottom against the geographic rival 49ers on national television. They got beat in every way by a crappy team starting undrafted former practice squad quarterback Nick Mullens for the first time. He carved the Raiders up, and the 49ers run game ate the Raiders alive.
There were rational questions about whether players had given up, disproven only by improved effort in later games.
Nov. 3: Irvin wasn’t happy about a lack of playing time in recent games, and was finally waived when he couldn’t be traded. He ended up signing with his hometown Atlanta Falcons, and threw shade on his former team by saying, “I’m free!!” upon joining his first Falcons practice.
Nov. 11: The Raiders lost their fifth straight game by at least 14 points, a franchise record that was one short of the longest lopsided-loss stretch in NFL history. This was the toughest on-field sequence, including three games in which the offense failed to score a touchdown.
Dec. 10: Owner Mark Davis fired Reggie McKenzie with three games left in the season when the longtime GM decided to walk rather than finish out the season as a lame duck. Gruden made criticizing McKenzie’s draft picks a regular thing over the course of the season. He wasn’t often wrong about a lack of production from three classes starting in 2015, but it portended a Gruden-McKenzie fracture at season’s end. This breakup came as no surprise. Davis hoped Gruden and McKenzie could work together, but that didn’t pan out, and the Raiders have now replaced him with former NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. Letting McKenzie walk was the final end of the previous era, and the new one is completely under Gruden’s control.
Dec. 11: The hits just kept on coming for the Silver and Black. The City of Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract, which prompted the Raiders to pull their lease offer to play the 2019 season at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders are still looking for a place to play this fall.
Dec. 24: The Raiders finally had a good night at the office, beating Denver in what may have been their last game at Oakland Coliseum. The crowd was into it and partying well after the final whistle. Carr had a great night, and the Raiders defense played its best game all year. If it was the last game at the aging stadium, the Raiders sent it out right.