Dennis Allen, Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis
Shortly after the end of another disappointing season for the Oakland Raiders in 2011, general manager Reggie McKenzie was hired and given the difficult task of putting the pieces together to get the Silver and Black back on the winning track.
A little more than four months later, McKenzie has already shown himself to be a true leader who knows what it takes to get the job done.
When he was introduced during the press conference back in January, he stated, "no matter who the player was on the team, they would all have to continue to prove themselves, and every single one had their job on the line," noting that was the only way to get the Silver and Black to the great team they should be.
McKenzie has followed through with those words, and his passion for excellence has spread throughout the franchise, exemplifying his exceptional ability as a leader of one of the most legendary teams in NFL history.
A few weeks after McKenzie was hired, Dennis Allen was brought on as the Raiders new head coach. The new general manager excitedly exclaimed that he "found his guy."
During Allen's introduction on January 30, he talked about how he admired the Raiders' teams of the 70s and 80s, noting they had "passion, discipline and respect for the game."
He remarked, "the vision for the future of the Oakland Raiders is going to be just that—it's going to be a tough, smart, disciplined, committed football team."
A lack of discipline was arguably one of the biggest problems in 2011. With Allen on board in 2012, it's already apparent this issue has been resolved.
On May 29, quarterback Terrelle Pryor spoke with Alex Marvez and Bill Polian on NFL Radio and said Allen brings "fire to the team," and a military discipline that's changed the entire atmosphere for the better.
Carson Palmer has been compared to the Raiders last great quarterback, Rich Gannon. While I've also heard a few fans say he lacks the leadership and passion the team needs, it's apparent those fans haven't followed Palmer in the offseason.
Shortly before the former Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback got his playbook in April, he told San Francisco Chronicle writer Vittorio Tafur, "I am fired up to get my playbook. We have a lot of work to do. We have a new offense and a new defense. New terminology. But we're very excited. Personnel-wise, we have as good an opportunity as anybody to win the whole thing."
In addition, Palmer noted he'd been watching a lot of film of the Houston Texans' offense, the team that Knapp was a part of for two years as the quarterbacks' coach, and he said, "I am excited to see how our personnel fits into this offense I have been watching. Monday can't get here soon enough."
Fans might recall Gannon and former head coach Jon Gruden arriving at the team's Alameda offices in the very early hours to study film, and Palmer seems to have much of that same dedication.
Those who think Palmer isn't enthusiastic enough might want to think again.
Speaking of Darren McFadden, the awesome running back reiterated what every other player wearing the silver and black has said recently.
McFadden said recently, "It's a great feeling around the organization," and he noted everyone is very excited about the new coaching staff.
If you still don't believe the Silver and Black players are doing everything to bring the team back to the top of the AFC West, consider what quarterback Terrelle Pryor told NFL Radio this week.
Pryor is so determined to become a solid quarterback he said he's been in touch with former quarterback Rich Gannon and plans to head out to Minnesota, where Gannon lives now, to learn from the best.
Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the team's quarterbacks coach, John DeFelippo, is convinced that Pryor has the work ethic necessary to become a good player in the NFL, adding, "He's a gym rat here in this building. He loves being here, loves talking football, loves being around, playing the game...He's getting better every day."
The former Houston Texans' quarterback, Matt Leinart, who was signed to be the primary backup earlier this month, is another player fired up for the 2012 season.
During a media conference call, he said, "This is a place I could do well," and he added:
"I'm here to help Carson with reads. The great thing is I've (repeated) a lot of these plays over the past two seasons and (Carson) is just doing it for the first time. I told him today to just stick with this route because it's a great route.We're so comfortable with each other. I'm here to help him."
Leinart's Twitter account reads, "Loving father, proud Trojan, and now fired up Raider! Oakland... Just win baby!!!"
Tight end David Ausberry has been one of the many stand-out players during the OTAs this month.
Ausberry spoke with the media last week, and Raiders.com reports he remarked, "Everything feels great with the new offense. We’re making a lot of progression every day, and it feels good to be back on the field again."
Ausberry is determined to become a starter in 2012 and has also bulked up quite a bit in an effort to do just that.
The Raiders have also signed several rookies who seem to have star potential and the strong dedication and work ethic to be successful in the NFL. One of those players includes offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom.
Shortly after the University of Utah player was signed, he remarked:
"I'm not stranger to coming home and studying all day and spending time with the family instead of going out at night. As soon as I get my playbook, I'm going back to that lifestyle of just studying every day and doing my workouts. I think having that schedule that you get used to, that's kind of a big part of maturity."
Jim Plunkett 1983
When I spoke with the Silver and Black's last Super Bowl Champion quarterback, Jim Plunkett, back in March, he told me he feels "2012 will be much better for (Carson Palmer), especially on offense with the great offensive weapons he has, including Jacoby Ford and Darren McFadden."
How much better they'll be remains to be seen.
While I'd be very pleasantly surprised (actually more like jumping up and down and screaming) if the Raiders became a Super Bowl Championship team in 2012, I do believe they've got the winning attitude they need to get back to the top of the AFC West.