Whenever a team's season finishes after Week 17 the fans and organization alike look for signs of progress from the last year. Hue Jackson, Amy Trask and Mark Davis are all very likely in that process right now in the team's Alameda headquarters.
The first place to look for improvement is the win-loss record, which did not change in Oakland. However, much like the playoff picture, there are many other factors to consider as the tiebreakers when records are the same.
The Raiders of 2010 didn't have to deal with a season ending injury to their starting quarterback, the death of an owner who was the face of the team thrusting a rookie head coach into the position of general manager, or a defensive coordinator who was, and should go back to, coaching in minor league football (the UFL), and another season ending injury to the star running back.
Also, the 2010 Raiders had Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery who all left via free agency. Imagine Robert Gallery and Stefen Wisniewski as the guards on the offensive line paving a trail for a healthy Darren McFadden or protecting for a healthy Jason Campbell.
Better yet, imagine having Nnamdi out there to shut down Calvin Johnson and Malcolm Floyd instead of Stanford Routt drawing several flags a game for hanging onto them for dear life.
The 2011 Raiders tied the 2010 Raiders but had several more obstacles to overcome. Carson Palmer, who I support but that is for another article, came off the couch and was playing in a game a week later. He can still throw the deep ball and now he has an offseason to work with his young receivers.
What year was better for the Oakland Raiders?
Also in 2011, we saw the big play ability of first-round draft picks Darrius Heyward-Bey from 2009 and Rolando McClain of 2010. They seemed to be playing better later in the season. DHB just may be the next great Raiders receiver, but he still drops a few passes. McClain needs to stop getting in trouble when he goes home to Alabama. As for his on-field play, that can be partially blamed on Chuck Bresnahan's play-calling and scheme.
The 2011 Raiders had to play the day after their owner Al Davis died on October 8th. Suddenly Hue Jackson, who was just an offensive coordinator last year, was head coach and general manager and worked on the trades for Palmer and Aaron Curry instead of doing what he was assigned to do—work on game plans.
Of course, in the NFL you have to be ready for whatever comes at you. Whether that be injuries or death, you have to be ready on Sunday. If the Raiders can get a real defensive coordinator, like Jack Del Rio or Steve Spagnuolo, and keep their skill positions healthy, then we will not be reviewing our season after just 17 weeks for the 2012 Raiders.