The Raiders have one of the most rabid fan bases in all of sports. This we know. What we don’t know is what will happen when that franchise relocates from Oakland to Las Vegas.
Will Raiders fans remain Raiders fans once the team moves to Sin City? And will Las Vegas residents truly embrace the team the way Oakland did?
“I don’t know. My only concern about moving to Las Vegas is will we still have our mystique?” former Raiders quarterback and head coach Tom Flores asked on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Will we still have our home-field advantage, the intimidation of playing at Oakland, the Black Hole, the tailgate, the craziness that surrounds the Raiders – will we still have that? That remains to be seen.”
Of course, it helps that the Raiders are trending in the right direction. They went from 3-13 in 2014 to 7-9 in 2015 to 12-4 in 2016. They have a young nucleus of star talent, including Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack.
“You still have to win,” Flores said. “You still have to have the players. The draft . . . was terrible after their Super Bowl year in the early 2000s. They made some mistakes. Unfortunately JaMarcus Russell was a real big mistake that set them back about two or three years. You can’t do that. You can’t have that. Reggie McKenzie has done a good job, along with Jack Del Rio, in bringing the players back. They had a great draft (in 2014) when they got Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson all in one draft. Those are three guys that are outstanding players. They got the players now. They still have some work to do on defense to reach that level that they’re after.”
Indeed, the Raiders finished sixth in total offense and seventh in in scoring offense (26.0) last season but ranked 26th in total defense and 20th in scoring defense (24.1).
“They’ve changed the culture, they’ve changed the personnel, but you still have to win,” Flores said. “The players have to play. Right now, they still have some spots to improve on.”
Oakland hopes that Marshawn Lynch, who came out of a one-year retirement, gives the Raiders a tougher mindset. The 31-year-old has rushed for 9,000+ yards, averaged 4.3 yards per carry, and scored 84 total touchdowns in his career.
He succeeded in Buffalo, and he succeeded in Seattle. Now he hopes to succeed in Oakland, where he grew up.
“That’s his home,” Flores said. “That’s where he wanted to play all along.”
Oakland plays three of its first four games on the road, including a Week 1 clash with the Titans in Tennessee on Sept. 10. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.