When the Oakland Raiders missed out on the Randall Cobb sweepstakes in 2015, Raider fans were disappointed. They wanted the young Derek Carr to have options at receiver, and even with most analysts predicting the team would select either Kevin White or Amari Cooper in the first round, they knew they’d need more weapons. On April 14th, 2015, the Raiders announced the signing of Michael Crabtree. A few weeks short of three years, as well as 232 catches, 2,543 yards, and 25 touchdowns later, he has been released. Here’s a look back at King Crab’s time wearing silver and black.
A Slice of Blue: Looking Back at Michael Crabtree as a Raider
Believe it or not, most Raiders fans were not pleased with the signing of Crabtree back in 2015. He was coming off an underwhelming season in San Francisco where he didn’t break 700 yards receiving, despite starting all 16 games, and was still being haunted by the taunts of Seattle Seahawks corner, Richard Sherman. The reality is that Raiders fans wanted Randall Cobb, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract to stay with the Green Bay Packers. They wanted someone who Derek Carr could lean on and develop with.
It is amusing to look at that now, considering that hindsight is 20/20. Since Michael Crabtree put on the silver and black for the very first time, he’s caught 232 passes for 2,543 yards and 25 touchdowns. Over that same span, Cobb has only caught 205 passes for 2,092 yards and 14 touchdowns. You could say that Cobb was splitting passes with Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams, but Crabtree was sharing the field with the likes of Amari Cooper as well.
In his time with Oakland, Crabtree became Derek Carr’s favorite receiver. Cooper was Oakland’s first round pick in 2015, but Crabtree has caught 29 more passes and seven more touchdowns during their shared time in Oakland. Crabtree has been crucial to Carr’s development, and it’s hard to say what the young gun might be like if he hadn’t had King Crab to rely on. After all, the two have no shortage of iconic moments together.
For many, the moment that Raiders fans knew the 2016 team was going to be fun to watch was late in the game against the New Orleans Saints in week one. Late in the game, Derek Carr found Seth Roberts in the endzone, setting the Raiders up to kick the extra point and tie the game. Instead, then-head coach Jack Del Rio opted to go for the win, attempting the two-point conversion. Instead of a quarterback sneak or some kind of pitch, it was Derek Carr stepping back in the pocket and floating a fade to none other than Michael Crabtree, who grabbed the ball and never let go, in what was ultimately the game’s deciding play.
Going into week four in 2016, the Oakland Raiders were 2-1, and they travelled across the country to face the undefeated Baltimore Ravens. Historically, the Raiders have struggled in the eastern time zone, mostly because the teams were bad, but partially because of the jetlag that sets in late in games. However, Crab didn’t buy that, and proved it by catching seven passes for 88 yards and three scores. I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored more touchdowns in M&T Bank Stadium than most Raven receivers that year.
The 2017 season wasn’t a ton of fun for the Raider Nation, but there was one game that gave fans of the silver and black something to smile about. In week seven, on Thursday Night Football, the Oakland Raiders beat their hated rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs in an absolute shootout. Derek Carr and Amari Cooper went off, having their best games of the season, but yet again, it was good ol’ Michael Crabtree that made the play that ended the game. After a bizarre series of events where it felt like the Raiders had won or lost 1,000 times, it was Michael Crabtree that Carr found in the front corner of the endzone to give Oakland the lead as time expired.
And what about the title of this article? The famous slice of blue catch is one that Raider Nation will remember fondly forever. At the end of a first half where the Raiders just couldn’t get anything going offensively, Carr found Crabtree in the endzone, but he was out of bounds. Or so it would seem. After a review, there was a very clear slice of blue separating Crabtree’s feet from the edge of the endzone, and the Raiders scored. This was this score that set up a win that gave Oakland it’s first playoff berth in over a decade.
What Went Wrong
It’s a little strange to have a piece like this, dedicated to all the good a player did for a team, shortly after he was released for a player on the same tier that cost about the same mount of money, and is in fact, older. But as much good as Crab did with the Raiders, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. 2017 wasn’t good to the Oakland Raiders, and while many players didn’t look like they belonged, Crabtree finds himself the odd man out.
He had arguably his worst season as a pro, registering his worst numbers as a Raider, and the worst full season since he was a rookie, and there were some behind the scenes issues. Reportedly, he and Carr had a falling out this season, and weren’t speaking at one point. I don’t personally know why they weren’t speaking, whether it was anthem or performance-related, I don’t care to speculate, but it’s not a good thing when two starters on your offense are having personal problems.
His issues didn’t stop there, as he seemed to have negative interactions with just about every high-profile corner the Raiders faced. Sure, it’s a receiver’s job to make corners miserable, but not in the way Crabtree did. It started in week three, when he apparently talked a ton of trash to Washington Redskins corner, Josh Norman, before the game even started. Oakland ended up getting blown out in that game, and Crabtree was a non-factor. Then there was chain-gate with Broncos corner, Aqib Talib.
Aqib Talib is no stranger to controversy, but when he ripped Michael Crabtree’s chain off his chest in week 17 of 2016, he made an enemy for life. Crab missed the first game against Denver, but when the second came along, he was ready. Early in the game, Crabtree pressed up against Talib, and if you look closely, he takes a couple of quick shots at him.
Crabtree taped his chain to himself to prevent Talib from snatching it, but when it was unsuccessful, he went after the controversial corner. The two got into a fight, and both men were ejected from the game, and was suspended for another.
In a season where the Raiders were a couple of ugly losses and bad plays away from being presentable, they couldn’t afford to lose someone like Crabtree for a game. Throw in the fact that he also led Oakland’s receivers in drops, and it’s not hard to see why the team was ready to move on.
People act like you have to love or hate Crab. It’s possible to say that he played well for us, helped Carr’s development, was mostly reliable, but also had some drops, a falling out with Carr, & didn’t live up to his contract.
I’ll always appreciate what Crab did for Oakland.
— Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithNFL) March 15, 2018
It’s still too early to say if Oakland made the right move, cutting Crabtree to make way for Jordy Nelson. Crabtree gave the Raiders a lot to celebrate in his time with the team, and was a crucial part of Derek Carr’s development. Amari Cooper has always had a higher ceiling than Crabtree, but he wasn’t always as reliable. Without Crab there, who knows if Carr would be the same young gunslinger that we know today. Regardless of whether you think the team screwed him over or whether you think he was a locker room problem, there’s no denying the positive impact that #15 made on the silver and black. He may not make Oakland’s Mt. Rushmore of receivers, but when the Nation looks back on this time period, they’ll remember him fondly.