Remember when the Raiders beat the Chiefs 12 days ago? No, probably not. A 52-0 loss tends to wipe clean all happy memories.
But you can Google it. The previously 0-10 Raiders beat Kansas City 24-20 on “Thursday Night Football,” setting off a wave of jubilation among the team’s players and fans. (Sio Moore and Khalil Mack started theirs a little earlier than some.)
But as Sunday’s drubbing at St. Louis confirmed, the victory over Alex Smith & Co., while hard earned and long anticipated, had a curious byproduct. It removed the final measure of intrigue the Raiders could offer. In effect, it made them irrelevant for the remainder of the season.
Think about it. When a team is spiraling toward oblivion, a few obvious storylines are likely to emerge.
Will they fire the coach? Well, Raiders owner Mark Davis got that nasty business out of the way early, canning Dennis Allen after a mere four games.
Will they catch fire and win the job for the new coach? That option disappeared right around the time the Rams’ Tre Mason galloped for an 89-yard touchdown run Sunday, igniting a rout that shocked even weary Raiders fans.
Will they turn to the young quarterback? Another nonfactor in Oakland, where rookie Derek Carr outplayed Matt Schaub in the preseason and won the starting job by the regular-season opener. Carr has generally been a rare bright spot for the Raiders this year, stifling any debate regarding the QB position.
Will the team disintegrate into name calling, finger pointing and public pouting? Alas, these are not the 2003 Raiders – the Dumbest Team in America – constantly dousing the locker room with lighter fluid. The 2014 players seems to be playing hard and saying the right things. They’re just not very good.
Honestly, there was one thing that made the Raiders compelling this year: the possibility of finishing 0-16. Imagine if they had taken an 0-14 record into Week 16, an 0-15 mark into Week 17. Could they really join the 2008 Lions in infamy? All eyes would have been upon them as they flirted with history.
But the Raiders crushed our dreams with that win over the Chiefs. Now they’re just another last-place team finishing out the 16-game string, getting valuable videotape on players who may not be in the league next year. The Raiders won’t be relevant again until the 2015 NFL draft, when they will once again claim their position of importance.