By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders organization has a long and mostly proud history of American Football League and National Football League success, but as the 2013 seasons with yet another non-playoff finish for the team, it’s beginning to become a reality that the Oakland franchise is one of the worst in the current pro-football landscape.
This will be the 11th straight year the Raiders have missed the playoffs, the longest postseason drought in team history. As an expansion team in an expansion league, the Oakland Raiders of the AFL missed the championship round seven straight seasons from 1960-66, and the the 1994-99 Raiders had a six-year streak of futility.
So, in truth, the last 20 years of Silver and Black football have seen only three seasons of mild glory (2000-02), after a previously amazing run of 15 postseason berths in 19 years from 1967-1985. And another stunning stat is the Raiders have made the postseason only six times since that 1985 season.
Oh, how the once mighty have fallen upon hard times!
With only those three winning seasons in the last 20 years, the Raiders fans who are still around have to be the most loyal in the sport, this side of Cleveland. After all, the Oakland fans do have the memories of 1976, 1980 and 1983 to fall back upon when times are tough. Winning three Super Bowls in an eight-year span made the Raiders one of the more prominent teams in the NFL.
How is it possible for a team to fall from such a high perch?
The NFL is unique in its parity, of course, as former commissioner Pete Rozelle always wanted, and avoiding the topic of the franchise’s ownership, the Raiders aren’t the only former “dynasty” to fall upon hard times.
Consider these other early dynasties of the Super Bowl era:
- The Green Bay Packers won five NFL titles in the 1960s on their way to winning the first two Super Bowls, including SB II over the Raiders. But after that? The Pack made the postseason just two times from 1968-1992, before Brett Favre showed up and changed the franchise’s fortunes.
- The Miami Dolphins became the first and only team to make three straight Super Bowls, winning the second and third (SB VII and VIII). The Dolphins remained mostly successful, but they’ve never won another Super Bowl, and they have made the postseason only once in the last 11 seasons (although they could still make it in 2013 if the chips fall right on Sunday).
- The Pittsburgh Steelers won four SBs in the 1970s, of course, but it then took them 26 years to win another one.
- The San Francisco 49ers won five SBs frm 1981-1994, but they have not won one since. And until Jim Harbaugh showed up in 2011, the 49ers had missed the postseason eight straight seasons.
- The Dallas Cowboys won two SBs in the 1970s in the midst of a dominant stretch where they went to the postseason 17 times in 18 years (1966-1983). But they hit rock bottom in the late 1980s before rebounding to win three more SBs in the 1990s. And now, they have won only two relatively meaningless playoff games since their last SB win in 1995.
- Currently, the New England Patriots have dominated the NFL in the 21st century with three SB wins, two more SB appearances and a slew of postseason berths. But what will happen when Bill Belichick and Tom Brady move on and retire?
The point is every franchise, no matter how successful, will eventually revert to the pack and even experience some mediocrity. The Raiders are certainly living that reality right now, but the pendulum does swing back, eventually. It may take longer now that the NFL is a 32-team league, but Oakland can and will rebound to find its way back to the higher levels of success it once knew and perhaps took for granted.
Even those playoff seasons of 2000, 2001 and 2002 were pretty good, by any standards — ask the Buffalo Bills, for example.
Maybe Raiders fans really don’t have it that bad, after all.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.