I can remember it like it was yesterday.
Barrett Robbins was somewhere in Mexico, Rich Gannon had just thrown more touchdowns to the Bucs defense than to the Raiders offense, and our old boy Chuckie was celebrating with a Lombardi trophy.
I sat in my Las Vegas hotel room, refusing the comfort that lay outside my door. No amount of free drinks or winning hands could free me from the despair that had settled in my heart. My mom use to say "Son, it's not the end of the world", but alas mom, this was the end of the world.
At least it was to us die hards. En route to Vegas, headed down the main artery of California's Highway 5, I was witness to a beautiful thing. Caravans of die hards decked out, tickets in hand, roaring towards San Diego all ready to raise some hell. Like a pack of wolves or a gang of bikers, mamas in tow looking for the biggest bar to bust up. And pumped as we all were, we came crashing down just as hard, if not harder.
Since that fateful weekend in Saint Diego, it's been coach after coach, quarterback after quarterback, draft pick after draft pick. Our failed attempts to regain respect have been nothing more than an exercise in futility. No matter who's been coaching, throwing, running, or blocking, there has been little improvement and even less optimism.
Even when our first-year coach does his best Gruden impression, we get met with whispers of trouble in Raiderland. Well finally, I'm proud to say, the worm is about to turn.
Last year was unlike any other since our Superbowl run. The signs of turmoil and lost players never surfaced like they always had before. Our coach seemed to still be in control, even after blowouts in Green Bay and Jacksonville, and even more importantly, our players seemed to be taking those games as lessons.
Our offense showed flashes of excitement, and our rookie quarterback looked poised, and dare I say ready to take the reigns. Implementing the zone blocking scheme was the best thing for our O-line and has helped us get back into the top ten in rushing. Keeping the coaching staff intact is a huge positive, as it breeds consistency and helps familiarity.
Defensively, our linebackers played lights-out football. Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard were both Pro-Bowl snubs. The highlight reel that was Nnamdi Asomugha was never tested, quarterbacks tend to look away from him.
With the addition of DeAngelo Hall, the open receivers just shrunk by one. This year, quarterbacks are going to have a hard time trying to find a window to squeeze the football into. The run defense was a spot of concern that may be addressed with the draft, but some moves have already taken place to get that going in the right direction.
As far as the draft goes, we're in great shape. Any of the players available when it's time to turn the card in will do just fine. Chris Long's silver-and-black blood has fans everywhere wanting to go out and buy a brand spanking new #91 Long jersey. However, if Ghoslton's or Dorsey's, or even McFadden's name gets called, I'll be just as satisfied.
There are signs my friends, and they're everywhere. Al Davis has set up his last hurrah. Like a man who's aware of his own end, he's gone out and spent, spent, spent. Sportswriters everywhere are screaming of his madness, and using his love for his team as proof of his insanity.
The truth is, Al is just doing what he's always believed in. Going out and getting the best players to help his team win. Nothing new in the silver and black hills of Oakland. The money is bigger, but so is the budget, so relax sportswriters.
Those of you who have been subjected to the nightmares and letdowns, from Art Shell to Randy Moss, things are going to get better sooner rather than later. This year, the air is just a tad fresher, the water more pure, and the future a bit brighter.