In the wake of their traumatic defeat last weekend that prevented the Oakland Raiders from reaching the postseason, many fans may be just emerging from the fetal position, ready to reacquaint themselves with the rest of the football world again. After all, Sunday’s loss was a rather devastating setback that made fans more nauseous than a plate of day-old sushi. It was enough to make Raider Nation want to walk the plank.
The reason for the sunken feeling is the lofty expectations that were laid out for the team. Fans anticipated a successful season, after an 8-8 record the previous year. With new coach Hue Jackson, a well-seasoned group of veterans returning and a healthy Jason Campbell, there was firm belief throughout the organization that the Raiders would again return to prominence in 2011, culminating in a playoff berth for the first time since 2002. Jackson’s confident charisma helped elevate the ambitions of a franchise that had been down in the dumps for the better part of the previous decade.
All those expectations were amplified when Jackson loudly traded for his former protégé, Carson Palmer, after Campbell suffered a collarbone fracture midseason. Jackson firmly believed that the piracy of acquiring Palmer would send the Raiders to the postseason; so much so that he was willing to part with potentially two first-round draft picks. That move was enough to go all-in for 2011, as Jackson nearly sold the farm in hopes of returning his team to the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
Instead, the Raiders are left to reflect on the season that could have been. As in any aspect of life that generates regret, Oakland had many shoulda, coulda, woulda moments during the year that will provide grief. The late-game collapses to the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions all take center stage. And each player will gaze woefully in hindsight at what actions would be done if they could do it all over again.
Though the season ended on a painfully sour note, there were instances to look back on that brought excitement, hope and pride for the perennially browbeaten organization.