OAKLAND, Calif. — Fans booed the Raiders late in the game Sunday. So? Fans in Foxboro booed the Patriots, and the Pats have been the best team in the NFL for a decade.
Besides, people around here are running out of time to express their displeasure.
They’re up against the clock — more specifically up against the NFL’s moving plans. The NFL isn’t moving — unfortunately — but the Raiders are. To Las Vegas.
There’s only one more game in Oakland, Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After that, all the losing and the booing will be done in Vegas, sadly for those whose hearts are with the Raiders, as loyal and mistreated a group that exists in sports.
Also stung are the citizens of Oakland, whose taxes cover the expensive, multimillion-dollar 1990s expansion of the Coliseum to lure Al Davis back from his move to Los Angeles.
The Vegas business presumably can be blamed on Al’s son, Mark, although maybe way back the original idea of going there was brought up in conversation by Al — not that Al had a lot of conversations with Mark.
Regardless, the Raiders are leaving. And after being squashed, 42-21, by the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, in the penultimate game at the Coliseum, they have a 6-7 record.
Maybe in a short while the Las Vegas Raiders will be good enough to reach the Super Bowl — yes, life is unfair — but right now, with too many players who either are young or injured, the Oakland Raiders are not very good.
In football at any level, a team usually wins or loses on defense, a part of the game with which the Raiders struggled Sunday, giving up 552 yards. “Were you frustrated by the missed tackles?” someone asked head coach Jon Gruden after the game, knowing full well what the answer would be.
“Yes, I was,” he said.
The next question should have been, “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?”
Instead it was, “How much did you miss (leading rusher) Josh Jacobs?”
“Probably a lot,” said Gruden, keeping his cool.
These are difficult days for everyone involved, Gruden, the players, the media, the public relations staff. What do you say about the inevitable? The Raiders are not going to the playoffs, so the only real issue is their going to Nevada.
All season long, the Las Vegas Review Journal gleefully has been staffing Raider games, as if to say, “Nyah, nyah” to Oakland.
Gruden is caught. He’s trying to win games. As one who delighted in visiting the Black Hole after home victories, he’s attempting to keep from losing friends.
He was asked how important it is for the Raiders to end their run in Oakland on a positive note, although whether that simply meant beating the Jaguars this Sunday or, say, sweeping the team’s final three games was not made clear.
“It’s obviously very important,” said Gruden. He coached the team from 1998 to 2001, then returned again in 2018. There’s a feeling about Oakland, but there’s also the need to move with the franchise.
“We’re trying every way we can to win a game,” he said. “I know we had some ugly moments (Sunday) and in the last couple weeks (they’ve lost three straight games). We’ve had some bright spots this season. We have some young building blocks in place.
“Yeah, it would mean a lot, and I get emotional about it. So do a lot of people. This is not the time to address all of that.”
In truth, it is. One more game, and after 60 years — with time away for Los Angeles — the Raiders are finished in Oakland. The nearer that comes, the worse it is.
The Coliseum was alive Sunday. An early morning rain gave way to afternoon sunshine, and although all the seats weren’t full, when the Raiders played well the cheering was loud enough.
Oakland — we won’t be using that name come the end of December — tied the game 21-21 at the half. Oh, if it only could have ended then. As Gruden pointed out, “The Tennessee Titans came in here and really put a show on offensively.”
Especially after intermission. The next thing you knew, the Titans were ahead by three touchdowns over the Raiders.
Now the next thing you know, the Raiders will no longer be in Oakland.