The Oakland Raiders earned an infamous reputation as a rogue organization known for bravado and a physical style of play many regarded as dirty.
After a near 15-year tailspin that humbled the Silver and Black’s once swollen pride, it took Christian faith and leadership to resurrect this storied franchise from obscurity.
Following a Super Bowl drubbing to end the 2002 season, the team went rudderless. No secular edicts about “Commitment to Excellence” or last-minute heroics could bring back the storied franchise. A revolving door of coaches and quarterbacks failed to meet professional standards.
So how did this team manage to get back on its feet?
One need only look to Proverbs 16:18 to understand: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
Leadership through Faith
The Raiders took their first step toward relevance by hiring head coach Jack Del Rio. The strong Catholic is well-known for placing faith in God first, and conveying that faith to the players.
Del Rio and his wife Linda have a long history of dedicated works. He runs the Jack Del Rio Foundation for underprivileged children, and spoke at the 2014 Pontifical Council for Culture Conference in Rome. She serves organizations such as Varsity Catholic, part of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
The NFL head coach admits that he strayed from his faith. As the accolades of becoming a standout college football player were heaped on him, he embraced secularism in daily life. But after his professional playing days ended, a devout assistant coach challenged him about his faith, leading to a path back to God. He’s since drawn a connection between the importance of God, sacrifice and football. He brought that to the Raiders coaching staff when he was tapped to lead in 2015.
The Path of Derek Carr
Selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Derek Carr brought fierce, unwavering faith to the Raiders organization. Winning the starting quarterback position as a rookie, the franchise muddled through its worst season, losing the first 10 games.
After winning that first professional contest his initial words to the media were: “I praise the name of Jesus.” But like the coach that would arrive the following year, Carr strayed from the path during his youth as well.
Carr was born the youngest of three children into a family grounded in Faith. He emulated his brother, David, who was a star quarterback and No. 1 overall NFL draft selection. Derek was a high school star in Sugar Land, Texas, before transferring to Bakersfield Christian High School in California and earning national sports honors. Although the teen spoke of his commitment to God frequently, his actions did not reflect the Bible’s teaching.
Challenged by his then-friend Heather in a letter that said, “You’re not the person I thought you were.” She went on to point out that Derek spoke as a person of faith, but his partying lifestyle did not support his words. He was a young man on the cusp of faltering.
In a 2015 interview with The Increase, he reportedly recalled his state of arrogance and selfishness.
“All of a sudden all the feelings came upon me and I got down on my knees,” he reportedly said. “It was finally that time God put His foot on my throat and said, ‘I have special plans for you, and you’re screwing it up.’”
He went on to ask forgiveness from his teammates and later marry Heather, the person who made God real to him.
The Oakland Raiders signal caller now honors his preacher grandfather with Jeremiah 29:11 tattooed on his left wrist, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
On his right wrist, he bears a Christ symbol. Last season, the team earned a 12-4 record and the first trip into the playoffs since 2002. Like head coach Del Rio, Carr channels his belief in the Lord to his belief in the men around him. That breeds a team confidence born out of humility.
Football teams are led by two people, the head coach and quarterback. In many ways, the Raiders path to renewed success parallels those of the Jack Del Rio and Derek Carr. Pride and arrogance have been replaced by Faith in the Lord and the glory reborn.
~ 1776 Christian