If change is truly the one constant in the modern NFL, the Cleveland Browns and Raiders just might be the epitome of it.
Less than 14 months after their last meeting, the longtime AFC rivals have each undergone their own kind of overhaul heading into today’s meeting in Oakland.
The Raiders (3-8) have revamped their entire organization since that contest in October 2011 in the first home game since the death of longtime owner and architect Al Davis. From the front office to the coaching staff to the on-field product, little is the same other than the familiar silver-and-black uniforms these days in Oakland.
While the bulk of the Raiders changes went on during last offseason, the Browns (3-8) have been doing it on the fly this season after being bought by Jimmy Haslam for $1.05 billion in a deal that was finalized in October.
Haslam hired Joe Banner to be the CEO and president Mike Holmgren officially stepped down this past week. The Raiders look far different from the team Cleveland lost to 24-17 in October 2011 eight days after Davis’ death. Starting quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone in the first half that game, setting off a chain of events that still impact the team today.
Former coach Hue Jackson traded two high draft picks two days later to Cincinnati to acquire Carson Palmer to keep Oakland on a playoff path. Instead, the Raiders faltered down the stretch and fell one game short of the AFC West title.
Owner Mark Davis hired Reggie McKenzie as general manager after the season and Jackson was fired. McKenzie hired Dennis Allen as coach and has overturned almost half of the roster. The Raiders are assured of their 10th straight non-winning season and already looking ahead to what they hope will be a brighter future.
“You realize where the record is right now. Some of the goals and aspirations we had earlier in the year may not be, they’re not as realistic as they once were,” Allen said. “So the focus now has to be more on, let’s restart. Let’s start this thing over, it’s 0-0 and let’s see where we can go from here.”
The Browns also look different on the field, especially offensively, where three of their most productive skill players are all rookies in quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson and receiver Josh Gordon.
After an 0-5 start to the season, Cleveland has won three of its last six games, including last week’s 20-14 victory over AFC North rival Pittsburgh.