Judging from the reaction that followed, when the Raiders chose Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh selection, one would have thought that Al Davis had been identified as the shooter on the grassy knoll who allegedly assassinated John F. Kennedy.
Conspiracy theorists, also known as NFL Network and ESPN "analysts," were somehow caught off guard and said that the Raiders drafted DHB simply because he ran the 40-yard dash the fastest. That could be the only explanation.
I guess they didn't get the memo.
The memo that said the Raiders' locker room was no longer going to sound like an opera singer warming up—no more me-me-me-me.
I guess they didn't read the first line that said that DeAngelo Hall no longer fit Tom Cable's "team" concept, or the second line that read, "Even if you are a veteran receiver, if you don't perform, you will find your way to the bench."
Did the analysts miss the part of the memo that said, "Just because you are a first round pick doesn't give you the right to start"?
I guess they missed the chapter where Ronald Curry and Gibril Wilson played their final games in an Oakland Raider uniform, punctuating the fact that the Raiders will no longer be a place to collect a paycheck and grumble about their role on the field.
If they only read to the end, they would have seen that players like Terrell Owens, Ocho Cinco, Adam "Pac-Man" Jones, and Tank Johnson—who, according to pro football "analysts," were destined to land in Oakland—were passed over by Davis and Cable without even a glance.
For anyone covering pro football, it should have occurred to them that the Raiders might be looking at a deep threat rather than a possession receiver: a receiver who is actually as tall as he says he is, one who has proven that he is as fast as advertised, and a player who will not disrupt the locker room with his ego.
So instead of picking the best-rated player on the board, the Raiders had the audacity to pick the best player to fill their need—a long-armed, tall receiver who gets off the line quickly and can block very well in the running game. Someone who fits the "Team First" concept that is now the Raiders' locker room.
When Tim Brown was selected from Notre Dame, the Raiders were criticized for collecting Heisman trophy winners. Now they draft DHB and are being criticized for drafting the speediest guy in the draft. Maybe that's a good omen...
Since Tom Cable has taken over, he has made it no secret that he wants players who feel they have to prove themselves every week; players with athletic skill coupled with a personality that is determined to work hard and push the players around them.
Cable's concept was an immediate success in the offseason when Nnamdi Asomugha, Shane Lechler, Justin Miller, Isaiah Ekejiuba, and Hiram Eugene all re-signed. The icing on the cake came when Jeff Garcia signed on the dotted line.
The locker room is now filled with players who feel privileged to play in the NFL—players who want to play for their coach and for the Raiders.
When these players run out of the tunnel and onto the field in the '09 season, they will be one unit for the first time in six years. They will have each other's back, and they will not be taking plays off like the Raiders of old. Players like DHB and Mike Mitchell will certainly be playing with a chip on their shoulders.
Maybe then, the pro football "analysts" will say, "I finally got the memo."