It's been a rocky ride the last six years. Storm after storm rocked the Raiders in the lost Ark. It's been like driving from from the East Coast to the West Coast in a Smart Car and the stereo that plays only Britney Spears songs. It's not something one shakes off easily. It takes time.
Going into another offseason, we are finding ourselves going into panic mode.
Who's going to be our coach? I thought we already had a coach?
Why don't we hurry up and sign cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a long-term contract? Why didn't we sign him to one last year?
We need wide receivers! We have too many good running backs!
All of these things have become almost automatic. But then I stopped. I jumped back and turned around, avoiding the blitz of negativity that has haunted me for six years.
I walked out to the back of my house and looked at the woods in front of me and the horizon beyond and something occurred to me. We have players.
I don't have to worry about an inexperienced quarterback. I don't have to worry about whether the wide receivers want to be there or not, or whether they are fast enough. I don't have to worry about our punt and kick returner or if we can actually draft a good tight end this year.
I don't have to worry about our running backs anymore or if offensive guard Robert Gallery is a bust or not.
I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY!!!
Now, don't get me wrong, I have concerns. The coaching staff is unsettled and we are all waiting on what direction Al Davis intends on going. My gut feeling is that Tom Cable gets to keep the keys to the Ferrari, but I don't know for sure.
My concern is whether Rob Ryan chooses to stay or leave. I'm hoping he leaves. The defense has underachieved and the younger players are not developing and that's a coaching problem, plain and simple.
What we do know is that when free agency begins, owner Al Davis is going to land a big name. This year the glaring holes remain on the offensive and defensive lines. We need help at wide receiver and linebacker too, but not as bad.
Remember last year? It was quarterback, offensive line, a change-up running back, wide receiver, a safety, a corner, a kickoff returner, a punt returner...and the list went on.
Look at the AFC West now! 8-8 was the best they could do. No more Shanahan, no more Schottenheimer, no more Vermiel. Next year's possibilities are staggering.
Once I stood back and looked at those woods in my backyard, I could see those tall trees turn into the '09 Raiders. That horizon was what began to dawn in '08. Riding a two game winning streak against two good teams showed me that the Raiders now know that success began when young players became mature.
The price they will pay for that success will be knowing the regret of those players who had their chance and never took it.
Carpe diem, young Raiders players.
Seize the day, Raiders faithful.