How to measure team success in the NFL is a fascinating question. After all, only one team is left standing at the end of the season, giving each team a 3.125% chance of winning the Super Bowl.
Of course, to pretend like every team has even that much of a chance is foolish — for most teams, that number is far closer to zero, which brings us back to the initial question: how do we assess those teams?
The Raiders, of course, are firmly implanted in this group — and they have been for so long that I’ve forgotten what it feels like not to be. This brings us to 2022 and one of the most riveting Raiders seasons I can ever remember.
They won 10 games (with the necessary caveat of a 17-game season) and made the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 5 seed.
And yet, they didn’t win the division.
In their playoff game, they went on the road and had the ball inside the 10-yard line with a chance to tie the game as time expired.
And yet, they lost.
As muddy as I’ve made the waters thus far, I think the answer to this question is undeniable. For as much as this team went through, and for as low as the lows have been for this franchise in the past two decades, 2022 was an unequivocal success — and I reject any notion that would argue otherwise.
This team came into the season with sportsbooks setting their win total at 7 — and that was before their head coach (and play-caller) was removed after just five weeks and before their most important offensive piece (Henry Ruggs) was accused of killing someone while driving drunk.
Had the sportsbooks been given a chance to adjust their projections knowing all that would happen, I can assure you the new number would not have been seven. Yes, every team battles injuries and hardships — but I would argue no team in the league dealt with even one situation as emotionally tolling as the Raiders, let alone two. Yes, the on-field impact is immense when you lose two of your most important offensive assets, but it’s the off-field stuff — like watching a friend’s life go down the drains alongside your coach’s career — that must be considered.
The fact that this team weathered both of these storms — on top of injuries (like losing both of their starting guards before the season began or missing Darren Waller and Trayvon Mullen for a combined 18 games) and everything else — in the toughest division in the league, no less, is admirable. To not only survive but to succeed is remarkable.
Were they fortunate to win so many games as time expired? Of course. Did they benefit from catching certain teams without their first-choice quarterback? They did.
But you know what? They did win those games as time expired. And they simply beat whoever was in front of them, never complaining that they played one of the toughest schedules in the league along the way.
So yes, losing to the Bengals in the playoffs sucks. Of course, I wish this team had more games on the schedule, but only eight teams get to play next weekend, and I think it’s okay to say that every team can have different measures of success. It doesn’t mean we stop dreaming of winning a Super Bowl; it means acknowledging that we’re in a different season of roster building than the Packers and the Chiefs.
Before the season, I projected a 10-7 record and a playoff appearance, and to be honest: I felt crazy for saying it. But you know what, through everything that happened, they got there. The defense was good enough, and the offense was clutch, while the coaching staff somehow kept everything together.
And for that? I’ll say this all was a success.
Stay tuned for more season rewind pieces coming soon as we take a look at the offense and defense.