– Al Davis subscribed to a simple mantra, "Just win, baby.
" But during the mid-90s, the Oakland Raiders were doing a little less of that than what the man in charge was used to.
Looking for a fix, Davisbrought in Jon Gruden to lead his team.
Patience through two 8-8seasons was rewarded in 2000 when the Raiders won theirfirst division title since 1990.
Their 12-and-four campaigncame to a halt though against the eventual champion Ravens, in part due to a Tony Siragusa belly flop that knocked Gannon outin the second quarter.
A season later, the story was the same, this time, falling in evenmore heartbreaking fashion to the Patriots and TomBrady's infamous tuck.
Having come so close, the Raiders knew they were nearly there.
Rich Gannon had turned intoan all-pro quarterback, which had helped Tim Browncontinue his dominance to the tune of nineconsecutive 1, 000-yard seasons.
In addition to dual-threatrunning back Charlie Garner, the Raiders' offensive explosionwas aided by Jerry Rice deciding to don the silver and black.
With defenses focusing on so many weapons, Jerry Porter became a key pieceas the team's deep threat.
Much of the credit forpiecing it all together goes to Bill Callahan, Oakland's offensive coordinator who followed Gruden to the bay.
But after the loss to the Pats, Callahan stepped intoan even bigger position.
Seemingly out of nowhere with Gruden's contract up in the air, Davis traded his head coach to Tampa Bay in exchange for two first-round picks, two second-rounders, and $8 million.
Callahan took the reins, looking to finish what Gruden started.
And in 2002, the Raiderslooked even better.
Their defense with nine new starters caught up to the offense.
A linebacking core led bynewcomer Bill Romanowski helped set the tone.
Like their fans in the Black Hole, they were built tointimidate opposing offenses, which was made easier bydefensive tackle Rod Coleman bearing down on quarterbacks.
Rising star Charles Woodsonwas locked in at corner, while another veteran newcomer Rod Woodson made the secondary a turnover machine.
Gannon put together an MVP season.
Rice and Brown never lost a step.
Garner did what no one else inthe league that year could do with 900-yards rushing and receiving.
And after a third straight division title, the Raiders glided pastthe Jets and Titans for a chance to win thefranchise's fourth Super Bowl.
And in order to do that, all that sat in theirway was a familiar face.
How hard could it be? (ominous music) Super Bowl XXXVII was over before it began.
The Buccaneers dominated the championship, making it 34-to-three in the third quarter before the Raiders flirted with a comeback that ultimately fell short.
After a year spent recoveringfrom the tuck game, this result hurt evenmore for many reasons, the obvious being their failure to show up on the biggest stage.
But how they failed madeit even more painful and showed some of the cracks this team would need to overcome.
First off, on offense, the Raiders had never changedthe language they used.
Gruden had spent theweek preparing Tampa Bay for his former quarterback, even playing the role of Gannonon the practice team himself and barking out the playsas he knew them in Oakland.
That meant anytime Gannonlooked to check out of a play, Warren Sapp or John Lynchcalled out what was coming, which resulted in five picksfor the Bucks' defense.
While that's frustrating enough, there was a belief amongsome of the offense that their own coach hadsabotaged their chances.
After working on onegame plan for the week leading up to the game, which would've made use oftheir size advantage on the line and aimed to run theball down Tampa's throat, on Friday night, Callahanhad a change of heart.
He presented them withnew orders, air it out.
This change was either theresult of or it resulted in the departure of a key Raiders piece, starting center Barret Robbins.
At the time, where he was orwhy he left was a mystery, but it was eventuallyrevealed to be the result of his mental health struggles, resulting in a stay atthe Betty Ford Clinic.
Without him, the Raiders finishedwith just 19 yards rushing in part due to the early holethey could never climb out of.
The lackluster performanceleft some of Oakland stars asking why someone wouldcompletely change the plans on such short notice.
While it seems absurd thatCallahan would actually sabotage his own team or hisown chances at a Super Bowl, it isn't farfetched tobelieve that he would rather have been on the other team.
See, when Gruden was traded to the Bucs, it was also with the agreementthat he couldn't bring any of the Raiders'coaching staff with him.
While Callahan had foundsuccess in Oakland, the reason he was there was Gruden who had given him his firstoffensive coordinator job after working together in Philadelphia.
Some of the players on the Raiders had the sense that Callahandidn't want to be in Oakland even when Gruden had been there.
But coming off an 11-win season, Davis' catchphrase rang even truer.
Not a whole lot changed forthis team that off-season and they looked to remain in position to challenge for another division title.
Before any footballcould be played though, the Raiders were making headlines, some in very Raider-esque fashion.
During training camp, Bill Romanowski took issue with second-year pro Marcus Williams who was blocking the 16-year vet on your average practice rep.
As the play came to an end, Romo ripped off the tight end’s helmet, then punched Williams in the face, leaving him with, among otherthings, a broken eye socket.
Romanowski apologized, but it would essentially end Williams' career and open up a lawsuit during the season.
As a positive spin, itwas at least a distraction from the Raiders' pre-season performance.
Their sloppy play led toskepticism that this was a team capable of what they'dpulled off a year ago.
And after a 2-2 regular season start, those concerns were justified.
The Raiders went intoa complete free fall.
Romanowski was put on IR aftercontinued concussion issues and Gannon joined him not longafter with a shoulder injury.
Garner was limited to just nine starts thanks to injuries plus asuspension from Callahan in the final week of the season.
The offense that had firedon all cylinders a year ago was reduced to a shadow of itself.
Brown and Rice combined forjust four touchdown receptions and the defense letopponents score at will.
Raiders defensive tackleRod Coleman put it simply, "You go from sugar to shit in one season.
"You can't blame it all on the players.
" A year after reaching the Super Bowl, Oakland managed just four wins, doing so with a rosterthat seemed to finally be showing its age.
Given how big of a shocktheir collapse was, the moves to right the shipweren't major surprises.
Despite all he'd done for the offense, Callahan was let go by Davis, a move that likely made bothcoach and locker room happy.
Davis went outside the organization to replace him with Norv Turner who made a major change of his own.
Out went the West Coast offense, in came a power run focuswith a vertical passing attack that had served Turner pretty well.
The trouble was, Oaklanddidn't quite have the pieces to make this work.
Garner had left in free agency, signing a massive deal toreunite with Gruden in Tampa.
And as for the offensive line, the unit that had givenup 43 sacks a season ago was being reconstructed, primarily through the draft.
The good news there wasOakland's four wins in 2003 were tied for fewest in the league, so they earned the second overall pick.
But even having 10 picksfor the second year in a row couldn't fill the holes in the roster.
Coleman, their sack leaderover the last two years, left for Atlanta in free agency.
Romanowski officially retired that summer.
And during training camp, the team finally saidgoodbye to Tim Brown.
Aside from Al Davis, Brown hadbeen the face of the Raiders, seemingly since he was drafted in 1988.
Even when the rest ofthe offense sputtered, he's shown as one of the League's best.
Along with Brown went Rod Woodson.
While his time in Oakland was short, he helped take the 2002squad to another level as he tied for the leaguelead in interceptions.
As they lost a handful ofveterans, one of the younger guys who had cemented himself as a top corner missed training campwith a contract dispute.
Charles Woodson didn't wannaplay on the franchise tag.
The club didn't wanna payhim what he wanted long term, but they had no trouble shellingout elsewhere on defense.
Like other aging players before him, Warren Sapp joined theRaiders for a hefty fee.
It was symbolic of Oakland's struggles.
Whether blinded by recentpost-season success or Al Davis being Al Davis, players past their prime were favored to the talent that couldprovide a future rebound.
Although Woodson would eventuallysign and play on the tag, nothing was saving the Raiders' defense.
They spiraled even further, ranking near the bottomin all major categories.
It was a similar story on offensewhere they were once again forced to go withouttheir star quarterback.
Gannon injured his neck inthe third game of the season.
It sent him immediately to injured reserve and led to his retirementthe following year.
In place of the 38-year-old came the comparativelyyouthful Kerry Collins who many had thought wouldthreaten Gannon's starting spot before the season.
In his 13 starts that year, Collins proved why thathadn't been the case.
It was once again a long year.
One star who was spared was Jerry Rice.
The receiver was flipped to the Seahawks after a lackluster six games.
While most of his career had been spent in a different part of the bay, he formed a terrifying duo with Tim Brown and deserved a fair share of credit for those postseason runs.
With little threat of an air attack, the ground game which wasespecially key in Turner's offense never got on track.
As a team, the Raiders had more turnovers than offensive touchdowns in 2004.
But a silver and black liningwas they actually improved on their win total from ayear ago, just by a win, baby.
Now, here's the thing.
Oakland essentially completedtheir collapse in record time.
That Super Bowl team was more or less gone just two years later.
But a big part of Oakland's collapse is the fact that once they were down, it felt like nothing theydid could get them back up.
While they only had nine winsover the previous two seasons, they'd done so with aroster decimated by injury.
The bigger problem wasthat it was a roster also decimated by bad decisions.
They had accumulated loads of draft picks, but rarely were taking playersworth a second contract.
From top to bottom, depth was an issue.
For receiver, once Rice was traded away, Porter became the de facto number one.
Sure, he had a career year, but it was hard for Davis to go from two of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game to, well, you know.
As a result, Al Davis madean extremely Al Davis move.
He went and got himself Randy Moss.
The Vikings' starreceiver became available after he displeasedMinnesota's organization.
Moss pretended to moon the crowd.
He exited a game with two seconds left.
He even shouted at someVikings corporate sponsors.
So some pretty bad stuff.
But the Raiders, as hadalways been the case, took their chances ifthe talent was there.
They sent Napoleon Harrisplus a first-round pick in exchange for Moss.
It was a move viewed asextremely on-brand for Oakland, gambling on a mercurialreceiver with a high price tag who was coming off hisworst season as a pro.
At his introduction, though, it seemed like Moss washappy to have a fresh start.
He said he was in love, heaping praise on Al Davis and the entire Raiders organization, even putting his own spinon the owner's catchphrase.
In addition to the receiver, Oakland upgraded their running game by bringing in LaMont Jordan.
They were moves that showed acommitment to Turner's scheme and even led to some optimism for what this team was capable of.
Once the season began, Moss gotback to his 1, 000-yard form.
Jordan did the same on the ground.
But with up and down play at quarterback, a team that led the League in penalties for the third straight year and a six-game losingstreak to finish the season, the Raiders were stuck in reverse.
After just two years, Davis called an end to the Norv Turner experiment.
They also cut ties totheir veteran quarterback in a move partially for thesake of freeing up cap space.
One area that extra cash wouldn't be used was for Charles Woodson.
The Raiders drafted Woodsonfourth overall in 1998 and the accolades poured in immediately.
But after two years playingon the franchise tag and a 2005 season thatended with a broken leg in the sixth game, he wasmore than ready to move on.
From there, Oakland fell further into a cycle of dysfunction.
Davis brought Art Shell back for a second head coaching stint.
Shell knew it wasn't the easiest task, given the locker room he was taking over, but he had a fairly simple mindset.
If there was a mutual respectbetween players and coaches, this team could turn a corner.
But in his very firstmeeting with Jerry Porter, that proved to be easier said than done.
As Shell pushed for Porterto stay in California and work out with theteam that off-season, the receiver grew agitated.
Things got more heatedwhen Porter admitted that he didn't like how thingswere going around there.
At that point, Shellunderstandably lost it.
Porter asked to be traded.
The Raiders asked for way too much.
So nothing changed other than Porter getting suspended by the team.
But this team was so low that at the time, it still felt like therewas nowhere to go but up, as even John Clayton wrotein his 2006 season preview that while they weren't back, they were finally headingin the right direction.
Instead, Oaklanddelivered one of the worst offensive performances in NFL history.
The 2006 Raiders scoredjust 12 offensive touchdowns and had seven gameswhere they were kept out of the end zone entirely.
A revolving door at quarterbackspat out 24 interceptions, while the team lost an absurd 22 fumbles.
The sad part was the defenseactually turned the corner.
Sapp reached double-digit sacks and they gave up the thirdfewest yards in the League.
But despite those efforts, Oakland sunk to theirworst records since 1962, their third season in existence.
Shell was quickly shown the door again.
The Raiders were sent to pickat the top of the draft again and Moss made hisfrustrations known again.
His 2006 was as disappointingas any other Raider and after just two seasons, was clearly no longer in love.
While rumors swirled of aMoss-for-Aaron Rodgers deal, he got the freshest ofstarts in New England.
By the time he was a Pat, the Raiders had a newface in the franchise, having selected JaMarcusRussell first overall.
The LSU star was paired with first-year head coach Lane Kiffin.
Long story short, neitheredition worked out.
They brought in more speed.
They tried coach after coach after coach and it wouldn't be until 2016 that the Raiders hadtheir first winning season since their Super Bowldefeat 14 years prior.
But unfortunately, Al Daviswasn't around to see it.
The man who had servedthe Raiders since 1963 passed away during the 2011 season.
He had spent his timebuilding up the team, feuding with commissioners, and doing things his way.
The struggles continued without him and his final years were a far cry from the heights he hadraised the organization to.
But even though theycouldn't win at all in 2002, when the Raiders were good, they were really damn good.
The best part about this collapse was that after beating theRaiders, Jon Gruden and his Bucs also went through a collapse of their own.
Check that out here or learnabout how awesome Al Davis was in his beef history with Mike Shanahan.
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