Recounting the last six years of disappointment seems a worthless cause at this point. The important thing to remember is that the Raiders have been forced to rebuild completely since their three AFC West Championships which culminated in 2003 with a Super Bowl appearance. Since that time, Al Davis, for better or worse, has tried to bring in the talent needed to win.
Heading in to 2009, it appears Interim Head Coach Tom Cable's two victories will be enough to secure him the Head Coaching job in Oakland sans the "Interim" precursor. In my view, this is the best course of action for the organization.
Cable has proved he can work with Al Davis personally, shares Al's "players first" point of view, and once he got his feet wet, began to use his personnel wisely as he adapted the deposed Lane Kiffin's west coast hybrid offense to more of a vertical attack which clearly suits JaMarcus Russell's skill set much better than the dink and dunk conservatism that was the hallmark of Kiffin's offense.
Assuming Cable will be the next coach of the Raiders, the selection of the offensive coordinator is perhaps the most interesting vacancy left on the team. What about the defensive coordinator, one might ask? As long as Al controls the team, Raider fans can be assured that the defensive scheme will remain largely the same, that is to say a base 4-3 defense with limited blitzing and man coverage.
Although Al the owner did let Rob Ryan attempt to install a 3-4 scheme upon his arrival, Al the GM also acquired Warren Sapp as a free agent, embarrassing him for a short time by having him play as a 3-4 defensive end, or five-technique. In short we should not expect the Raider's scheme on defense to change.
Returning to the offensive side of the ball, the name currently floated in NFL circles to assume the OC position in Oakland is Al Saunders, a man who has excellent NFL credentials and the success to back it up when he has been given time to install his vertical offense.
His Kansas City teams in the first part of the decade were twice the number one scoring offense in the NFL, and he was also a part of the famous "Greatest Show on Turf" years of the St. Louis Rams. His failure in Washington has been cited by former Redskins starter Mark Brunell's inability to learn the 700 page playbook and his generally declining skills at that time. Saint Louis last year was a disaster that no coach could fix.
So is the Don "Air" Coryell disciple the long term answer in Oakland? I believe so, if Al can remain patient and if JaMarcus Russell has the intellectual aptitude to learn the system and execute the intricate pre-snap reads and timing passes that are the basis of the scheme.
The scheme, which typically relies on a power blocking run game, must also adapt to include the zone blocking running game because not one of the current starting Raider Offensive lineman are suited to play in a power scheme (witness 2006 under Art Shell).
I think that adjustment could be made fairly easily, and frankly I think Cable, who obviously recognized Russell and his 6'6'' frame was not cut out to run a dink and dunk touch pass offense and started airing it out towards the end of the season, would benefit from the tutelage of a true vertical offense guru.
If this is the route we go, what type of personnel are needed to execute this offense? Well, with the help of pro-football-reference.com, I will take the liberty to match up the successfull 2004/2005 Chiefs that ranked No. 1 in offense with the 2009 Raiders.
QB: Trent Green vs. Jamarcus Russell
RB: Priest Holmes/Larry Johnson vs. Darren McFadden/Michael Bush
FB: Tony Richardson vs. Orenthal Oneil
TE: Tony Gonzales vs. Zach Miller
WR1: Eddie Kinnison vs. Javon Walker or Johnnie Lee Higgins
WR2: Johnie Morton vs. Chaz Shillens or Arman Shields
OLine: The KC oline was truly dominant with muliple pro bowlers, and averaged over 2000 yards and 4.6 yards per game both years. Interestingly, the raiders averaged over 2000 yards and 4.3 yards per carry last year, and improved its pass blocking tremendously, and this was with a blatant lack of talent at four of of the five positions.
The emergence of Henderson late in the season along with the improvement of Gallery and the selection of a blue chip Offensive Tackle in the draft as is expected should improve these numbers significantly.
While each position is debatable as far as who is more talented from those KC teams or the Raider's current roster, it should seem fairly obvious that the Raider do have the righttypes of players at each position and the fact that KC could put up such great numbers with terrible wide receivers should warrant a graved invitation from Mr. Davis to Mr. Saunders to join the Nation.
At each position, the level of talent is so close (and in many cases better for the Raiders) and strikingly similar that it would be worth the wait while the team adapts for a season.