The Oakland Raiders will be on Hard Knocks. I repeat — THE OAKLAND RAIDERS will be on Hard Knocks. Put simply this is going to be box office. We are finally going to see how team owner Mark Davis operates behind the scenes (and just who cuts his hair too), how Jon Gruden plans to reignite Derek Carr’s career amidst a huge off season roster overhaul, and what actions former NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock will take to justify being appointed GM for one of the leagues most storied franchises. Then there is Antonio Brown. Forget his official YouTube channel. His legendary competitiveness, yet widely reported divisiveness, should be on full show for the world to see. Then there is the integration of Richie Incognito potentially going south, Vontaze Burfict going Mike Tyson on his new teammates, and the small task of preparing for next years move to Las Vegas. Just how will HBO fit all of the above in just 5 episodes with The Men in Black?
Yet the immediate question should be just who benefits from this weeks announcement? HBO? Certainly. The audience? Most definitely. The Raiders? Well that’s a tough one to answer. In reality both Mark Davis and Jon Gruden likely see their respective participation very differently. From an ownership perspective the Raiders are about to uproot their entire organisation in less than 12 months, leaving fans in Oakland with just one professional sports team (the NBA’s Golden State Warriors move to San Francisco in October). Those who run the franchise behind the scenes know the perils of moving away from an established fanbase to a new market. The Raiders themselves moved to Los Angeles in 1982, just to move back to Oakland 12 years later due to a split fanbase and damaged stadium (due to the 1994 Northbridge earthquake). Don’t forget they also play in a loaded AFC West. Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes will likely tear up the league for years to come, the Los Angeles Chargers are in their own Super Bowl winning window, and the Denver Broncos are always a threat. So just who will be talking about the Raiders ahead of their move to Las Vegas?
But for Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, the presence of multiple cameras could not have come at a worse time. It’s hard enough to build a winning culture in the NFL, especially with the ever revolving door of player personnel. Yet add tens of cameras, producers and technicians into the mix, the Raiders likely have more than Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live sessions to worry about if they want to better the 4 wins they had in 2018. Sure the Browns were pretty good last year, and 6 of the 13 teams previously documented improved their regular season records immediately following the show. But generally speaking secrecy and cohesion win. Just ask Bill Belichick and the Patriots. In 19 years as the HC and de facto GM, only a handful of reports of dissent and player unrest have ever come out of New England. Subsequently, you have to wonder whether everyone within the Raider organisation, players and execs alike, will ever be able to be themselves in what is a crucial period for any team trying to establish an identity.
But for the rest of us? Put simply we just want to be entertained. For this reason I’ve decided to have some fun and list my top 5 predictions for this years edition. Enjoy. J
- Antonio Brown angers Jon Gruden with an impromptu Facebook Live session in the locker room (again). The player is brought in and told it won’t fly in Oakland.
- Despite being new teammates their strained history rears its ugly head when Vontaze Burfict takes out Antonio Brown on a crossing route, thus leading to a mass brawl.
- Richie Incognito does not make final 53-man roster.
- One of the Raiders 1st round picks will go down with a season ending injury during training camp.
- Tom Cable (offensive line coach) will steal the show. Seriously, check this guy out.