The Oakland Raiders are a team on the rise in the NFL with the storied franchise living up to their passionate pursuit of a commitment to excellence with up-and-coming stars Derek Carr and Khalil Mack paving the way for a bright future.
With the Raiders making quite an impression last season finishing with a 12-4 record and ending their playoff drought, Lincoln Kennedy, current Raiders radio color commentator and two-time All-Pro, spoke with AXS.com about his former team and where they're headed next season.
Ryan Ward: You've been able to see firsthand the Raiders being on the rise in the NFL once again. How does the current team compare to the dominant Raiders squads you played on? Any similarities to the Super Bowl team of 2003?
Lincoln Kennedy: "It's really hard to grade when you played on a team you think more highly of it than anything else," Kennedy told AXS.com. "I will say I'm impressed with the way this team has come together because it is built on a solid foundation. Reggie McKenzie and the scouting staff did a good job drafting over the last couple of years, especially when they were able to get Khalil Mack, a franchise defensive end pass-rusher, and then, of course, Derek Carr, a franchise quarterback, in the same draft.
"The foundation is set. Follow it up with Amari Cooper and a couple others, Gabe Jackson, re-signing Donald Penn. Paying a lot of attention to the offensive line. Strengthening that factor. I think it has come together pretty impressively. A lot like we had back in the early 2000's."
How do you see the addition of Marshawn Lynch impacting the Raiders? Does he elevate the Raiders offense to one of the best in the NFL if not the best?
LK: "I think the Raiders offense was already close to being there. They were efficient if you look at the numbers. Derek Carr, prior to his injury last year, was an MVP candidate and by a lot of people's standard was going to be that MVP.
"Marshawn Lynch adds that power back. That added dynamic. Also, the added appeal is the fact he is a local kid. That he wants to play for the Raiders. The Raiders are happy to have him because he fills the need. He's happy to be there because he wants to play, wants to show that he's still got a little bit in the tank and right now you've got to ride that wave as much as you can."
I recently interviewed Raiders Pro Bowler Donald Penn, and he compared Derek Carr to Kobe Bryant in terms of his mentality. Do you see Carr being that kind of fierce competitor?
LK: "Yeah, no doubt about it. The one thing that has always been notorious about Kobe all the way back to [Michael] Jordan is that they hate to lose and are willing to do whatever it takes to put their team over the top. I think that definitely true with Derek.
"He's got that sort of presence about him that you know he is just going to be a winner. That's why when you look at the long-term effect, not just the immediate effect, the Raiders have found their franchise quarterback for the next decade."
The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. How do you feel about the eventual departure from Oakland?
LK: "A little bit of mixed emotions towards it. The thing is I've got a lot of close friends and people I care about in Oakland. I always thought the identity of this team definitely belongs to Oakland and vice versa.
"However, the pure truth of it is that we're talking about a business and businesses have to move on. I told the story quite often that when I joined the team in '96, it was the first year they were full-time back in Oakland and all the talks were, 'Hey, the Raiders will eventually have their own stadium.' Fast forward 21 years later, nothing has gotten done. I'm not really sure who to blame or who to fault.
"Fact is nothing has got done, and it saddens me that a team as iconic as the Raiders are to the NFL have to share a stadium with a baseball team where you have other teams like the Atlanta Falcons who have built two stadiums in 25 years and other places have got all their stadiums, and you got teams that have moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis back to Los Angeles getting a new stadium and everything else and Raiders are still sharing an old antiquated stadium with a baseball team."
Would you say Raiders owner Mark Davis has done an admirable job in putting this together?
LK: "Well, Mark Davis has done what's best for his team. Admirable is yet to be seen. The team is going to have a home where the stadium has been built. He is trying to manage the team as best as he can and he should look forward to the future and glory of the Raiders. I think he's done a good job looking at that."