With the close of the 2008 season, the 2009 preseason will officially begin.
That's the way it seems, anyway.
Soon, all NFL franchises will be assessing their teams and trying to be more successful than the year before, in hopes that their team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February.
As soon as the regular season ended, the mock drafts began being circulated by sports writers. But as an Oakland Raider fan, I can't get really excited about that yet.
Again, the team finds itself in the lost and found bin. The Silver and Black compass is spinning round and round.
The main problem? We don't have coaches.
I'm not talking about the head coach. I'm talking about the play callers, the offensive and defensive coordinators, the ones who define the identity and direction of the team.
How can we know what is needed on offense until we know what the philosophy will be? Is the quarterback going to have a three-step or seven-step drop? What about designed rollouts? How much will he rely on the running back to help out in protection in the passing game?
I would love to see us draft a big run-stuffing linebacker, but what if the next defensive coordinator likes to run the zone blitz? If that's the case, we'll need balance at that position.
So we need the coaches in place. The next step is the issue of free agency. Will the best shut-down corner in the game, Nnamdi Asomougha, want to stay in Oakland? Will he choose to stay where he grew up, wearing the Raider uniform that he dreamed about wearing as a child? Or is he ready to leave?
Punter Shane Lechler hasn't had many kind words either. Surely sack artist Derrick Burgess won't want to keep quietly working for peanuts while watching Kelly and Sands work for gold bullion.
Hypothetically, after all the coaches are in place and our free agents are re-signed and happy, we all still have to remember that the offseason is Al Davis' Christmas. He just loves to give, just like Mom, and during this time of year, just like Mom, you never know what you'll get.
Sometimes you get the new iPod because that was on your list (Jerry Rice), or sometimes you get the Kenny G box set (Javon Walker). That's how it is with the Raiders in the offseason...either you get the new gaming system or you get socks.
One thing is for sure. Whoever ends up coaching has a real opportunity to build on a team that began to believe it could play with and beat anybody. Continuing that progress will not be a small task, but after the last six rocky years it is imperative to bring stability to the Oakland Raiders.
Good luck, coaches, whoever you are.