Have times changed for Bay Area Football? Just last season, the Oakland Raiders were the talk of the Bay with a 12-4 record and a young quarterback who was the leading candidate for league MVP. Unfortunately, during a Christmas Eve game against the Indianapolis Colts, Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula, which left the Raiders without their leader for their first playoff game in over a decade.
They would lose to Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans in a 27-14 beat down. Linebacker Bruce Irvin was quoted saying “We lost our leader” and it showed with an uninspired performance by rookie Connor Cook who finished the game 18-for-45 with one touchdown and three interceptions.
On the other side of the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco 49ers had just concluded their first season under coach Chip Kelly who finished with a disappointing 2-14 record. Expectations were not met, and Kelly was relieved of his duties along with general manager Trent Baalke. The Niners would soon make a splash by signing first time general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. He had success as an offensive coordinator with the eventual Super Bowl loser the Atlanta Falcons.
After a successful draft and well-regarded off-season, the 49ers had an unfulfilling start to the season. With Brian Hoyer at the helm, the Niners started the season with zero wins and eight losses. Many could identify the team’s overall improvement in performance under coach Shanahan, but the subpar performance of the nine-year veteran Hoyer would eventually lead to his benching, which left the 49ers in search of a leader at quarterback.
On October 30th, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter that the New England Patriots would send backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. After spending the first few weeks of his tenure on the sidelines, Garoppolo would be handed the keys to the franchise as he took them and ran! Jimmy “GQ” would finish the season with a 5-0 record and a QBR of 80.2, which would be good for second in the league among quarterbacks who were eligible.
On the other hand, the Jack Del Rio led Raiders would see struggles of their own. With a move to Las Vegas on the horizon and constant pressure from fans, most expected the Raiders to be at the top of the AFC. That was not the case. Through the first 12 games, the Raiders were sitting in third place in the AFC West with a 6-6 record and their playoffs hopes slim at best. Oakland would lose their final four games resulting in a disappointing 6-10 record, same as their Bay Bridge rival.
The underwhelming season by the Raiders would cost Del Rio his job, where he was immediately fired after the final game of the season. The search for a new coach wouldn’t take long for the Raiders. They decided to hire their former coach Jon Gruden, who coached the team to an AFC Championship in 2001. With the new czar raking in a record 100-million-dollar contract and a roster full of capable play-makers, the Raiders should look to make noise next season just like their Bay Area counterpart.
The Niners were tasked with the challenge of giving Garoppolo a multi-year guaranteed contract or franchise tagging him. The latter would only keep him under contract through the end of the 2018-2019 season. Although Jimmy’s performance was limited, he received a vote of confidence from Lynch who was quoted at the season-ending news conference.
He said, “We’re going to work hard to try to keep him as a 49er for a long, long time.”
They did so by rewarding him with a five-year deal worth 137.5 million as reported by ESPN’s Schefter.
Its clear Bay Area football fans have a lot to be excited for, but there are many question marks heading into the upcoming season, we’ll just have to sit back and see how the offseason turns out with free agency and the draft being stepping stones to the start of a successful season for both teams.