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After Season Full of Distractions, Raiders in Control of NFL Playoffs Destiny

The Las Vegas Raiders have truly had a great season when you consider everything that this team has had to endure. Needless to say, not many people predicted them to have a chance to win their way into the AFC playoff picture in Week 18. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia has kept an ever-changing roster together. Derek Carr and the Raiders have outperformed expectations and continued to find ways to pull out wins. By getting past all of the outside noise and distractions, the Raiders now find themselves with a chance to make the NFL Playoffs.

Rich Bisaccia Las Vegas Raiders NFL Playoffs
Credit: Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas Raiders Overcome Numerous Distractions in Wild 2021 Season

NFL Email Probe Leads to Firing of Head Coach Jon Gruden

Early in the season, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had several of his emails from 2011-2018 released. These emails were sent to someone who was a part of the Washington Football Team front office and included disparaging racist, homophobic, and misogynistic remarks.

The Raiders originally held on to Gruden as their head coach, but more emails were released and Gruden ultimately resigned from his position. He released the following statement regarding his decision:

“I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction… Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.” -Jon Gruden

The Raiders were 3-2 before Gruden resigned and have gone 6-5 under interim head coach, Rich Bisaccia. Meanwhile, Gruden is in the process of suing the NFL for slandering his character. Many believe that the league made Gruden the fall guy to try and save face for Washington owner Dan Snyder. The fact that the NFL refused to release all of the emails from the investigation certainly is suspicious.

Receiver Henry Ruggs III Arrested for DUI Resulting in Death

This was arguably the biggest distraction the Las Vegas Raiders were dealt during a chaotic 2021 season. Less than a month after Jon Gruden’s resignation, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was driving drunk and hit a car. Tina Tintor was driving home when Ruggs hit her from behind while traveling at speeds in excess of 120 MPH. Tintor was trapped inside her car with her dog as the two burned alive.

Ruggs was charged with a DUI resulting in death and reckless driving. If he is found guilty, the former first-round pick will be sentenced to anywhere from 2-20 years in prison. The Raiders terminated his contract less than 24 hours after the crash.

Cornerback Damon Arnette Threatens Fan with Gun

Less than a week after the Ruggs incident, the Las Vegas Raiders encountered yet another distraction that led to the dismissal of another former first-round draft pick. Defensive back Damon Arnette took to Instagram and threatened a fan with a gun. In his Instagram story, he held his phone in one hand and his gun in his other telling the fan to “pull up”.

Raiders GM Mike Mayock said that the conduct was unacceptable and Arnette was immediately released. Within the span of a week, the Raiders released each of their two first-round picks from the 2020 NFL Draft.

Arnette’s release further depleted what was already a shorthanded and struggling defensive secondary. Add in various injuries and virus protocol issues in recent weeks and the Raiders have practically been bringing guys in off the street to play in the secondary.

Las Vegas Raiders Face Win-And-In Scenario on Week 18 Sunday Night Football

This has been an unprecedented season in terms of distraction off the field for a single team. Despite all of the chaos, the Las Vegas Raiders find themselves with a chance to qualify for the NFL Playoffs. The 9-7 Raiders will host the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers in a win-or-go-home matchup for an AFC Wild Card spot on Sunday night. That’s right, Las Vegas simply needs to win at home in Week 18 to clinch a playoff berth.

The fact that the Raiders could be playing in the postseason after losing their coach early in the season, two first-round picks due to inexcusable actions and several other impact players due to injury is truly hard to fathom. Will they get the job done this weekend? The Raiders certainly figure to be playing some inspired football in what will be the team’s first home game since the passing of the legendary John Madden.

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