Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden walks off the field after an NFL football game between the Raiders and the Cleveland Browns in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. The Raiders won 45-42 in overtime. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

Just remember something: The Raiders paid $100 million for this.

This mess.

This 1-3 start.        

This Oakland season. This quarterback play. This offense and play-calling.

For this. For this.

Maybe the Raiders’ beating the Browns in overtime, at home, will transform their season. Maybe it will spark something.

And for sure, in the NFL, winning is everything. The Raiders won. In many ways, that’s all that matters.

Still, this Raiders team is a mystery. It’s fun to watch yet frustrating. There is talent, but it doesn’t show consistently. Quarterback Derek Carr will make three good plays, followed by two terrible ones. Receiver Amari Cooper will look good, flirt with great and then revert to average.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Sometimes, all of those things happen in one play.

Then there are positives. The Raiders had a 400-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher (Marshawn Lynch) and two 100-yard receivers Sunday. ESPN Stats & Info says the only other time that’s happened in Raiders history was in 1964 against the Broncos. ESPN also says this was Carr’s 14th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime since entering the league four years ago.

That’s a nice positive, right?

But also remember: This game-winning drive came against the Browns. Jon Gruden wasn’t paid all that cash for overtime wins against the Browns. The Raiders could have paid Chip Kelly to do that for $8 an hour.

The Raiders are 1-3. They could still make a run, build on Sunday’s win. They could also spiral downward quickly. This is an Oakland group that could finish with eight or nine wins or just two or three. We have no clue.

We have a strong idea what the Chiefs will do this year or the Eagles or the Patriots. Almost every other team in football. The Raiders? Not a damn clue.

The main thing we’ve seen so far from Gruden, and his reported $100 million contract, is bluster and few results.

And his only win was a come-from-behind drama fest against the mighty Cleveland Browns.

Gruden has talked a good game in the booth and during the offseason and even now. He speaks the part well, but both his personnel moves and his coaching haven’t always seemed to match the bluster.

He dumped his best player, pass-rusher Khalil Mack, for two first-rounders. It’s safe to say that if Mack were on the Raiders now, he might have accounted for two more wins. He’s that special. Mack is in Chicago, and the Bears might have the best defense in football thanks in large part to him.

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 30:  Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after stripping the football in the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field on September 30, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Imag

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

On the field, there’s no indelible Gruden mark on his players. They’re not tough or smart. They make countless mental errors, and the offense they run isn’t special.

You do see promise, at times, but the Raiders are so undisciplined that it’s difficult to fully see where this franchise is headed.

When you look at the Browns, you see an ascending organization rising from the muck with a potential star at quarterback. In Jacksonville, they beat teams up. In Kansas City and Los Angeles with the Rams, it’s a track meet. In Chicago, it’s a defensive beatdown. In New England, it’s Tom Brady.

In Oakland it’s…it’s…it’s…give me a minute. 

And now, figuring out the Raiders is even tougher. The 45-42 win didn’t answer anything. It took the Raiders overtime at home to beat a rookie quarterback for a franchise so traditionally bad it has been the butt of jokes for years on end and a symbol of ineptitude.

Plagues and locusts have looked at the Browns and said: You guys are our role models.

Instead, in Oakland, the Browns scored 42 points.

What do you make of this besides a win is a win?

This will sound like an odd question, but which franchise do you think has a brighter future: the Browns or the Raiders?

It’s the Browns, and it’s not even close. Think about how odd that statement is. When was the last time the Browns had a future better than any team? The 1980s? When Jim Brown played?

Baker Mayfield could end up better than Carr. The Browns defense is young and ferocious. The Browns have the potential to be better than the Raiders in every aspect of the game.

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders talks with Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns after their game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 30, 2018 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

And Browns coach Hue Jackson isn’t getting paid $100 million.

Mayfield is the 30th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999. The previous 29 went 2-26-1 in their first starts. The only quarterbacks to win were Jeff Garcia and Brian Hoyer.

This is one of the worst quarterback track records in league history, and the Raiders almost lost to it.

The Raiders paid $100 million for this, huh?

Maybe it will work. Or maybe Gruden isn’t worth it. I’m leaning toward the latter, but that’s the thing.

For now, we still have no clue.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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