2009 Oakland Raiders: Three Steps to Escaping the Black Hole
With the supposedly "problematic" Lane Kiffin out of Oakland, the Raiders have no excuses heading into the 2009 season. The Raiders fired Kiffin, who was too outspoken for Al Davis, after a disappointing start in 2008.
Heading into the 2009 season, the Raiders are led by coach Tom Cable, who experienced a turnaround from his squad at the end of the '08 season.
Cable seemed to have some control over the Raiders, but there's absolutely no excuse for the Raiders' lack of dedication.
The Raiders appeared to be sloppy all year long, and the once highly-poised team is now the laughing stock of the NFL.
Not since the 2003 Super Bowl meltdown have the Oakland Raiders played an honest game of football. Led by quarterback Rich Gannon, and wide receivers Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter, the Raiders had dedication, poise, and class.
But those days are long gone. These Raiders are a new breed—one which lacks dedication, class, and experience.
Led by an arrogant and egotistical owner, the Raiders are seeking a pathway out of the black hole that's caused so much humiliation and has made them the laughing stock of the league.
In order for the Raiders to become a successful franchise again, they need to have the same class and dedication that led them to the Super Bowl seven seasons ago.
Step 1: Find Another Gannon
It's not going to be easy, but the Raiders better hope JaMarcus Russell pans out. Gannon was among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL during the early 2000's.
Gannon led the Raiders to three-straight AFC West Division titles, two AFC Championships, and one Super Bowl appearance.
The quarterback position is perhaps the most important position in all of football. Sure, the offensive line does its share of hard work, and sure, the receivers are the ones running the routes, but the quarterback is the leader. The Raiders, at this point, have no leader.
Recently, the Raiders signed Jeff Garcia, a solid addition, though at 39, it's hard to picture him as a difference maker.
Russell is going to get the opportunity to prove himself worthy of the starting position in camp, but Garcia will have the upper-hand when you factor in his experience.
Finding another Rich Gannon is difficult, but it's the only way the Raiders can regain the AFC West crown.
Step 2: Develop Some Class
No one handled himself in a more professional manner than Jerry Rice. Rice, the best wide receiver of all time, played for Oakland from 2001-2004, and never pulled a "T.O" or "Randy Moss".
Another guy who handled himself in a professional manner was Tim Brown. Brown, who played for the Raiders in all but one season in his career, was a class act. Brown holds all the Raiders receiving records, and was a silent leader who led by example.
When one reflects upon the 2008 Raiders, not one player comes to mind as a class-act. Instead, you read about how dysfunctional the clubhouse is, and how laid back they are.
Guys stay out partying after curfew. Rice and Brown didn't do that. They played the game how it was meant to be played.
By no means am I saying that the Raiders need to find talent like Rice and Brown, because there is none. I'm just saying they need to have the type of class that Rice and Brown displayed on and off the field.
Rice and Brown were class acts who handled their business quietly and professionally. If the 2009 Raiders can develop some class, then it may not be a hopeless season.
Step 3: Just Play Baby
The final step is easy. For the Raiders to be successful in 2009, they just need to play football. No outside distractions. No coach-owner feuding. No drama, period.
In 2008 the Raiders had too many distractions, and too many conflicts. There was no leadership, no direction, and no dedication.
In 2009, the Raiders need to be organized. There needs to be fewer penalties, and fewer distractions. If the Raiders' defense remains competitive, then the offense just needs to get going in order for success to be had.
Looking forward to the 2009 season, the Raiders should just focus on playing football. JaMarcus Russell needs to grow up and become the leader that so many expected him to be.
If the Raiders can find another Gannon and develop some class, then they'll be alright. But if trouble finds them, as it always does, then it's going to be a long season.