Let's all be blatantly honest here. No one outside of the Oakland Raiders organization, who isn't a rabidly optimistic fan, believed heading into 2019 that the team would not only be relevant in November, but also in contention for the AFC West crown. Yet, here they are sitting at 5-4 and just 1.5 games back of the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, by virtue of a loss to them earlier this season, very much in control of their own fate going forward.
This is the same team that went 4-12 in 2018 on the heels of trading away a Hall of Fame pass rush talent in Khalil Mack, and then gave up a third- and fifth-rounder in 2019 to acquire All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, who led the team (and the league) on a wild goose chase that involved a helmet dispute, frostbitten feet, an altercation with general manager Mike Mayock that reportedly involved him using a racial slur, and accusations of sexual assault; and all over a span of five months.
In the end, the Raiders were forced to admit their mistake and release Brown without him having suited up for a single game, making him the second All-Pro talent in Jon Gruden's latest stint that as Raiders coach that he didn't actually, well, coach — in a single game. That's two black eyes for Gruden in just over one calendar year, and it turned the Raiders into the laughingstock of the league this summer, but that's all changed in a matter of eight games.
They're now winners of two straight after downing the rival Los Angeles Chargers — a team hot off of a beatdown of the high-powered Green Bay Packers — and their remaining seven games are quite favorable.
The quick turnaround within the organization started with the hiring of Gruden away from ESPN in 2018, who then recruited Mayock away from NFL Network to help him right the ship. The former has been chided for being too old school in his approach to football, and that's justifiable at times, but credit him for being a hard-nosed leader of men, assuming those men have a thick enough skin to take what he's dishing out.