After years of staging games in London, the NFL would love a test of that market’s readiness to host a team full-time. Meanwhile, the Raiders remain unsure where they will play in 2019.
Say … could the NFL and its black-sheep franchise kill two birds with one stone here? Well, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, that possibility is indeed on the table, even if it is, as he put it Sunday, “Completely out of left field — actually, I should say across the pond.”
“London is now an option for the Raiders; it’s being discussed for them to play next year,” Glazer said. “They’re still trying to figure it out. Other owners have brought it up to the Raiders, the Raiders are discussing it.”
There would be, of course, major logistical challenges, particularly as the Raiders are in the AFC West and thus would be forcing some of their opponents to make exceptionally long road trips. Travel would be a huge issue for the team itself, as well. One scenario for the Raiders, according to Glazer, would be to have them play two cycles of four London home games in a row and four straight in the U.S.
We already know that the Raiders' $100 million coach, Jon Gruden, would not be a fan of this plan, because he squawked about having to fly to London for a game against the Seahawks in October. “I hope I can make it, honestly. I’m not great [traveling],” he said at the time.
“I get claustrophobic,” Gruden continued. “My son was a weightlifter, and he won a powerlifting competition in Belarus. I had to fly 14 hours. I had to fly home 14 hours. I had vertigo for a month. I couldn’t even lay down, the house was spinning. I am hoping I don’t get vertigo. I’m not a great traveler.
"I’ll be honest with you. I hate it. I’m not good. I’m concerned. I’m more worried about that than our goal-line offense right now.”
As it turned out, the Raiders' offense never got closer to the end zone than Seattle’s 24-yard line, in a 27-3 drubbing that gave them one of their 11 losses against just three wins. They host the Broncos on Monday night in what could be their final game in Oakland, given tensions between municipal officials there and team owner Mark Davis.
The City of Oakland sued the Raiders earlier this month over their planned move to Las Vegas, which won’t happen until 2020 because that’s the scheduled opening of a stadium being built in that city. In the meantime, Davis had hoped to spend one last season in Oakland but said he wouldn’t do so if the lawsuit was filed, so he is now casting an eye elsewhere.
Glazer also mentioned the possibilities of the Raiders playing at the 49ers' stadium in nearby Santa Clara, Calif., or in San Diego, which lost the Chargers last year to Los Angeles. Other potential options include San Francisco’s AT&T Park (home of the Giants), Seattle, Phoenix, St. Louis or even a return to Oakland, if things can be smoothed out.
“I am really sensitive about hearing that,” Gruden said recently of the possibility that his Raiders were about to bid farewell to the city where they were born in 1960 and won two of their three Super Bowl titles (the other came while they were based in Los Angeles from 1982 through 1994). “It’s going to be a great atmosphere Monday night, on Christmas Eve, the Denver Broncos coming to town. I get excited thinking about it. Just raging in the Black Hole. Rocking and raging down there after the Steelers game, after a lot of wins over the years. Seeing a lot of the old highlights of the great Raiders teams.
"I get excited and I get emotional about it. Hopefully, we get it all resolved where we can continue to play here.”
If an Oakland return does not get resolved, though, the Raiders could be playing in the shadow of Big Ben, and that’s not referring to a certain Steelers quarterback. The team was already likely to play at least one 2019 contest in London, as the NFL announced earlier this month that the Raiders were among five teams set to host an international game next season, with four to be played in the U.K. and one in Mexico City.
So why not just go ahead and give us a full season of the London Raiders? It clearly wouldn’t be Gruden’s cup of tea, and it might leave the NFL’s schedule-makers feeling knackered, but it would solve a bloody vexing issue for both the team and the league.
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