Barring something insanely unforeseen, the Raiders are moving to Vegas

Barring something insanely unforeseen, the Raiders are moving to Vegas

The danger in assuming that Mark Davis has finally won Las Vegas for himself and his creditors is that a lot of people assumed that he had won Los Angeles for himself and his erstwhile partner Dean Spanos a year ago, and we saw what happened there.

Namely, that Davis had to hustle up a new deal a year later.

But the danger in assuming that one piece of treachery aimed at Davis in 2016 automatically means the likelihood of a second is far greater, because there is now something that trumps all other considerations and voting blocs.

There is simply no good reason for any owner to vote no, save a personal or financial animus toward Davis by the league establishment that will never be eradicated. In short, all the ducks have been aligned, all the money has been pronounced clean, Interstates 5 and 15 have been cleared for a 2019 takeoff, and the internal shouting is over.

Allowing for what is about a one percent chance of last-second failure (Davis/market size/sunspots), the Raiders will belong to Las Vegas in three years.

Raider fans may now commence their outrage – if they have enough left to give after such a protracted process and in the face of an owner so determined to go that he’s been working the angle for a minimum of three years. At some point, righteous anger can no longer withstand the might of inevitability.

And amazingly, Mark Davis doing a deal that would pass the muster of 31 much richer men who hold him in barely tolerable esteem is some feat.

There were always lots of reasons to think Vegas couldn’t happen, starting with Davis’ richly merited reputation for amiable inertia, then proceeding through his relatively low regard among his fellow owners, minimal wealth by NFL standards, Las Vegas’ principal industry, not to mention Oakland’s tradition and superior market size.

Well, to his credit (or blame, depending on your point of view), he has ticked off all those boxes. Having been slapped down so aggressively by the league when he wanted to split Los Angeles with Spanos and the Chargers, he was told to make a better deal, and did. Every time he erected an obstacle to his own success, he somehow cleared it, or knew the right people to remove it for him. He even managed to cut off his own avenue of retreat with the help of the City of Oakland, and he can now present to the owners the following proposal.

- I got the money to move.
- I got the right kind of money to satisfy you all, as in no obvious traceable casino money.
- I can’t stay in Oakland because you repeatedly told Oakland its deal was dead on the ground.
- In short, I have to leave because I can’t stay, and I have answered every one of your objections to leaving.

And because of all that, there is no longer a forseeably viable way to get nine votes to stop him.

Oh, there is still a case to be made that the Raiders will be giving up half of the sixth-largest television market for the 40th, but that’s a microscopic rebuttal to $1.4 billion in state and bank money for a stadium that quite possibly will cost less that the sticker of $1.9 billion.

And whether you believe that Davis orchestrated this brilliant slalom from failure in Los Angeles through the landmine of Sheldon Adelson’s involvement and Nevada state politics, the noisy but necessary divorce from Adelson and the reassembly of the deal through the graces of Bank of America, or whether partners, friends and fortune just smiled on him throughout, it must still be acknowledged that he took the humiliation of a year ago and turned it into what seems to be for him a triumph in slightly more than a year.

But to be thorough, let’s line up the help he got.

- Oakland’s decision not to present a stadium plan to the league that the league could use to hammer the city in perpetuity. Dealing with the NFL is typically a perilous move for cities, and Oakland’s unwillingness to knuckle under to its demands is a statement about fiscal prudence most cities cannot make.
- Adelson’s work in helping drive the process by which the $750 million hotel tax passed through the Nevada state house in Carson City.
- Bank of America, which stepped forward, almost certainly with some league prodding, to replace Adelson, who was a deal-breaker in the minds of the owners who did not want him as a part of the league.
- The NFL’s horrendous misplay of the Los Angeles market by picking the Rams as the only franchise and then being forced to accept the Chargers a year later even as the softness of the market was being exposed.
- The NFL ownership finance committee, which saw no obvious holes in the financing as well as an avenue toward making their own shares of the perceived Vegas windfall.
- Las Vegas’ ability to recast itself to the owners as a lucrative financial center as well as a gateway to foreign money that few other open cities can claim.

All those factors aligned to make the Raiders and Vegas make sense to the 31 men who decide what cities get to have pro football and what cities do not. Barring something genuinely and insanely unforeseen between now and the day of the vote, Mark Davis has won the approval of those who have always viewed him with the greatest skepticism.

And Oakland loses the Raiders for a second time, a year after they seemed they would be Oakland’s for decades to come.

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

The Raiders searched in vain for dynamic receiving production before Amari Cooper came along. Thousand-yard seasons proved elusive even in the golden age of passing stats, with a full decade’s drought after Randy Moss posted a four-digit total in 2005.

Cooper’s made that old hat.

The 2015 first-round pick has two 1,000-yard campaigns in as many seasons. Ditto for Pro Bowl honors. Those feats have become increasingly common, Cooper’s already in rarified air.

Cooper’s career is off to a solid start, but the No. 4 overall pick two years ago believes he can be much better. That especially true later in the season, where production has waned in his first two seasons.

He has nine 100-yard performances in two seasons, with just two coming after week 8. He noticeably struggled with injury at the end of 2015, but wouldn’t make excuses for a production drop last season.

Cooper wants to finish as strong as he starts, and has full confidence that will happen this season.

“Of course it’s been on my mind, but it’s a good thing to me because I feel like I can go nowhere but up,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I know that I can have a lot more production than I’ve had in the past two seasons, so we’ll just see.”

Cooper has sought counsel from other NFL greats – Calvin Johnson has been in Alamenda this week, offering sage advice – and Raiders coaches have identified ways where he can be even more dynamic working with quarterback Derek Carr.

“Certainly there are things that we think we can do to help,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Also, for him, I think he has a much greater understanding. I thought last year was a step forward. I know he wants to continue to push. It’s great when you have a young, talented player that’s really eager to be special, wants to make a mark in this league. The way he’s working at it right now is outstanding. That’s all we want of our guys.

Cooper is a versatile presence, able to do most everything well. His route running was luaded out of college, though he can be a good deep-ball receiver and can create big plays after the catch. Cooper knows his hands much be more consistent, but the Raiders want to exract more from his natural talents.

“There are a lot of different facets to him,” Del Rio said. “Where his speed is really one of his greatest strengths, obviously, his route running ability was pretty doggone polished when he got here, but even that can continue to improve and the timing with Derek. We think he’ll continue to ascend.”

That’s the goal heading into his third NFL season now armed with greater knowledge of how he’s being covered and muscle memory of what went wrong at times later in the year.

Cooper believes detail work will help him this fall and winter, and that starts in earnest during the offseason program.

“It’s easy to forget the small things like high-pointing the ball, looking the ball all the way through and not trying to run before you actually catch the ball,” Cooper said. “Overall, I’m just working hard in the offseason so that you can come back and you can be dominant.

“I want to be the best Amari Cooper that I could possibly be. I want to be better than every other year that I’ve played football, so that’s how I am looking at this year.”

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Editor's Note: The above video is from Dec. 24, 2016.

Donald Penn was nothing short of awesome last season. The veteran Raiders left tackle proved impenetrable, allowing just one sack and 27 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps.

He ranked high among the NFL’s best left tackles at 33, engulfed a career renaissance that began after joining the Raiders three years ago. Penn made the Pro Bowl. He was a vital piece of a 12-4 team that helped the Raiders reach the playoffs.

He hasn’t reveled much in that. Penn’s driven by opportunities missed, and one mishap that haunts him still.

Penn locked horns with Indianapolis linebacker Trent Cole off the left edge during a Week 16 contest against the Colts, and slipped as he was tracking his man away from the pocket. Penn’s feet got tangled and the big man fell. Cole remained upright, darted in and sacked quarterback Derek Carr.

It was Penn’s only sack allowed all season. And Carr got hurt. He suffered a broken fibula that ended his season and realistic hopes of a Raiders playoff run.

Nearly five months have passed since that fluke play. Carr is healthy and a full participant in the Raiders offseason program. The Raiders offensive line might be better after allowing a league-low 18 sacks last season.

There’s plenty to be excited about as the Raiders enter OTAs and a mandatory minicamp. Penn can’t help but lament that isolated incident when Carr went down.

“You have to be an athlete. You try not to think about it too much,” Penn said Tuesday. “You wish you could go back and get it back. I’ve taken that same set I don’t know how many times, on the same field and never just slipped out of nowhere. I’m not going to put it on myself. I should have been able to do something better. You know me, I’m never going to blame the slip for happening. I should have blocked him and held on to him and taken him down with me. That play sticks with me.”

That isn’t all bad. It fuels Penn to continue growing as a player, even at 34 coming off an excellent Pro Bowl season.

“I’m going to try to do what I can do better and make sure it never happens again,” Penn said. “I’ve never gotten a quarterback hurt in my life since I’ve been playing. That was a first. That’s something I take pride in. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Penn wants a different ending to this season. Last year the Raiders lost the AFC West crown and a shot to win the team’s first playoff game. Penn suffered a knee injury the following week that kept him from playing in the postseason.

The goal is to realize vast potential now that the Raiders offense is back healthy again.

“I’m all about karma and stuff like that,” Penn said. “Maybe (God is) trying to tell us that this is our year. We have to put in the work to get it. I know D.C. is happy, I’m dang sure happy to get him back. We’re growing and masterminding this offense trying to make it as explosive as possible.”