As Raider Nation settles into the offseason they can look back fondly on an excellent 2016 season by the Silver and Black. Most of us did not foresee that Oakland would win 12 games; in fact, I personally predicted that the team would win no more than 8 or 9 contests. But it was refreshing that the team finally outweighed the expectations of many people.
The fact that the Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 was a complete shock to me. I personally did not think that the roster was strong enough, nor experienced enough to make that kind of run. I was wrong as much as I was happily surprised. However, one of the people who was not surprised by the Raiders miraculous turnaround in 2016, was their former quarterback, Rich Gannon.
Lindy’s Pro Football preview has been a consistent publication in the sporting world for the past 30 years. Their preview of the 2016 season contains an interview with Rich Gannon, who took the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002, when he was named the league’s MVP. It is in that interview that he reveals his feelings regarding the 2016 Raiders. Going into the 2016 season the Oakland Raiders were 62-146 since their Super Bowl XVIII appearance but good drafts, the emergence of a promising quarterback had convinced Gannon that the Silver and Black were back.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Raiders in the playoffs in 2016,” said Gannon, a current member of the CBS Sports team that covers the NFL. “They’ve got a good staff; they’ve got some good players and I really like this quarterback, I think they have a chance to surprise some people this year.”
Gannon is well known for his lack of tact sometimes when it comes to expressing his views. This is both a blessing and a curse for the Oakland Raiders both when Rich was a player and when he analyzes the team as a paid consultant at CBS. His former coach Jon Gruden once compared Gannon to a “Philly taxi driver” because of his inherent lack of verbal tact. However, those who lead best have to have the biggest mouths and no one can doubt that the Raiders were a success under the leadership of Rich Gannon.
Teammates often groaned at Gannon’s impassioned speeches about winning, or his tirades and tantrums. The true believers, however, understood their quarterback was simply demanding victory, for every member of the organization.
Al Davis spoke at Rich Gannon’s retirement press conference in 2004 and he summed up exactly why Gannon’s big mouth made him a successful player. “We used to hear a little bit, ‘The players are getting upset with Rich. He’s on them too much.’ And, boy, I raised my hand and said, ‘Amen. Go ahead.’ Because, I believe you have to get on them, from time to time. But you have to drive people. You have to earn their respect by winning, and that’s what I thought he had.”
At the time of Gannon’s retirement then Raiders punter Shane Lechler had a more tactful way at putting things into perspective regarding Gannon. “Rich could see a guy’s potential, and he wanted them to recognize it as well,” said Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler, whose locker was next to Gannon’s for five seasons. “He may have ruffled a few feathers here and there, but he got the job done. It didn’t bother Rich. That was part of the game that he played. Everybody liked to follow him, and it seemed to work out for him.”
However, in the years since he left the Raiders Gannon hasn’t given the Raiders organization or team many compliments. Personally, I felt that it was deserved but there were times that Gannon went “Philly taxi driver” on the team. For example, in 2014 the Raiders started the season 0-4 and as a result head coach Dennis Allen was promptly dismissed and replaced with assistant Tony Sparano. Gannon criticized his former team on his SiriusXM radio show saying members of the organization should give their checks back for their poor performance.
“People out in Oakland, in that building, players, coaches, front office, people in business, accounting – stealing, they ought to give the check back. … When you lose like that, how can you go to the bank and cash the check? Should be embarrassed. … They’re stealing. That’s a problem.”
Going into 2016 it had been 12 years since the Oakland Raiders were in the playoffs. Even worse was the fact that it had been 12 years since the Oakland Raiders had a winning season. Rich Gannon correctly predicted that Raiders suffering was over.
Those two franchise records ended in 2016 and the promise for the future remains bright. Rich Gannon hasn’t worn a Raiders uniform since 2004 but I am thankful that he was the closest member of the Raiders’ family in the media to openly predict a Raiders run in the postseason. The 2016 playoffs didn’t end in the way that I had hoped but I didn’t have any hope for the Raiders to make it to begin with. Gannon did and he deserves the credit for calling it prior to any games being played. Gannon saw the potential and he wanted the Raiders to recognize it too!