Raider Nation To Critics: Don't Hate The Player, Hate The Game

Pat CowanCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - MAY 08:  Darrius Heyward-Bey #12 of the Oakland Raiders runs drills during the Raiders minicamp at the team's permanent training facility on May 8, 2009 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

 The Oakland Raiders have certainly had their share of criticism over the years, but after a six year slide into futility most of it was warranted. After all the best way to quiet the critics is to win and after six grueling seasons it looks like, for Raider Nation, the wait may be nearing its end.

 Not according to the media though, despite the absence of drama and high profile prima donna's in the locker room, even without salary cap issues and owner/coach feuds, they keep finding new material for their crusade of negative  analysis when talking about the Silver and Black.

 When Darrius Heyward Bey was drafted, the now infamous media coverage from Mike Mayock, Chris Carter, Trent Dilfer and Tom Jackson mocked most of the Raiders choices and commented about how the Raiders always have terrible drafts.

  Drafts that include: Nnamdi Asoumougha, Zack Miller, Trevor Scott, Chaz Schillens, Jonny Lee Higgins, Michael Bush, Darren McFadden, Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard who are ALL starters. Some of these players are among the best in the NFL at their positions and some are up and coming. According to media opinion it doesn't matter though because the Raiders drafted Micheal Huff. For shame!

 Lately, for the critics, it's been  Jamarcus Russell's accuracy problems. Even though it is a valid issue what isn't being reported is that Lane Kiffin, Greg Knapp and Tom Cable have been the only quarterback coaches that Russell has ever worked with since he's been in the NFL. Let's face it, these guys are not going to be on any NFL teams top 20 QB coaches list anytime soon and it showed in Russell's mechanics last year. Ted Tollner and Paul hackett on the other hand have been very successful withe QB's, and I believe it's safe to say that they are changing just about everything that Russell did last year. It's "Extreme Makeover- NFL edition". No more throwing off the back foot, staring down receivers , late releases or sloppy footwork. Getting comfortable with new mechanics takes time. Besides, It's May and they've had three practices.

 When the 2009 season starts, the NFL analysts will be focusing on Darren McFadden, Jamarcus Russell, and Darius Heyward Bey- infact they already are. This could be a great opportunity for the Raiders to spoon feed these NFL has beens turned desk jockeys the crow that has been being prepared since Tom Cable got the keys to the Ferrari in 2008.

 What the media hasn't been paying attention to is that Schillens is emerging as a reliable receiver that runs precise routes. Last year he was brought off the bench for his run blocking skills before he emerged as a starter. Another thing that is slipping by the national spotlight is that the offensive line is looking solid and confident, miles ahead of last years squad at this same juncture and that's without Center Sampson Satele who will be joining them soon.

 While the cameras are rolling on Jamarcus Russell calmly holding a drink in his hand at a nightclub, they will be missing just how dominate Michael Bush looks and that he will likely be the number 2 back behind McFadden.

 Annalysts have been telling us all how DHB is struggling to catch the ball when Nnamdi Asoumougha is covering him. The same Asomougha who has been thrown to only twenty times in two years and earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro team.  Meanwhile, they will not notice Trevor Scott who has added ten pounds of muscle and is looking faster and stronger then the year before when he tied the team and all rookies with five sacks when he was only a part time player.

 It's no big secret that the running game is going to be the "bread and butter" of the offense this season, yet the media will have us believe that the Raiders will live and die on Russell's arm. They will also try to lead us to believe that possession receiver Michael Crabtree would be a better fit because he caught more passes than DHB in college, it doesn't matter that catching screens was Crabtree's specialty and not  getting down the field like DHB who is already accustomed to the Pro-Style offense.

  What is amusing is that analysts will continue to focus on  players like McFadden, DHB and Russell who are X factor type players who cause alot of excitement when they get their hands on the ball because they can make big things happen, but what is escaping their peripheral vision is the steady, solid players that have filled out the roster. Players like Bush, Schillens, Miller, JLH, Fargas, Scott, Mitchell,  Rankin, Neal  and the offensive line who will be the backbone of the 2009 team.

 Until the Raiders start putting games in the "W" column again, expectations will continue to be low in the eyes of the media, but if this is the year that the Silver and Black giant awakens once again, Raider Nation will be tuning in to alot of these  so-called experts and enjoy watching them squirm while they try to downplay their relentless criticism of one of the greatest franchises in NFL history.

 I know I will be watching....