In the end, the Raiders just couldn’t do it.
Oakland fell 16-15 to the Broncos in Denver Sunday, finally killing the team’s very slim hopes of reaching the playoffs – and ending the franchise’s history in the Bay Area that began in 1960.
Fittingly, the Raiders didn’t go down without a fight, scoring a touchdown at the end of the game, but then failing to convert a two-point conversion that would have earned a victory.
The team battled throughout the 2019 season, at one point sitting at 6-4 and looking like a strong contender for a playoff spot. But the Raiders stumbled, losing five of six to finish at 7-9. It was a solid step up from the 4-12 record of 2018, but so much less than what the team promised after 10 games.
Now the team heads to Las Vegas, where it will play in a new stadium in 2020, and the long, sometimes-glorious tenure in Oakland is over, sealed with one, final loss.
In a way, the Raiders haven’t been the Raiders in a long while. Once a powerhouse of the AFL and AFC – winners of three Super Bowls – the Raiders in Oakland are leaving with a whimper instead of a bang.
Since going 11-5 and playing in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season, the Raiders have had just one winning season and one playoff appearance since (in 2016).
Still, this season had promise. In his second season, Jon Gruden had a team with more talent. A gifted rookie class and some key free-agent veteran signings injected the franchise with new hope.
But after a high-water mark on Nov. 17 – a 17-10 victory over the Bengals that boosted the team’s record to 6-4 – came four straight losses to the Jets, Chiefs, Titans and Jaguars. A victory over the Chargers a week ago gave the Raiders a narrow opportunity to get into the postseason on the final weekend, but it didn’t happen.
Now, the Oakland Raiders become the Las Vegas Raiders.
Wrote longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion: “Sunday’s loss marked the end of an era. The end of a brand. The end of a unique bond between city and team.”
Sunday’s decision in Denver was just one final loss for a once-great Oakland franchise.