The season is not over for the Raiders. They are not going to feature in the playoffs in January, but this was very unlikely anyway going into the season.
Despite recording more losses than any other team since their Super Bowl loss in 2003, and despite being on target to register another double-digit loss this year, all is not lost in 2009 for the Silver and Black.
Oakland has some key players around which to build a team that will once again challenge for honors.
Shane Lechler (P), Richard Seymour (DE) and Nnamdi Asomugha (CB) are all elite players, great role models and leaders.
Robert Gallery (OG), Thomas Howard (LB) and Sebastian Janikowski (K) are stand-out players who would be considered for the Pro Bowl if they played on winning teams.
The Raiders also have a good number of promising young players who are really growing: Mario Henderson (OT), Zach Miller (TE), Michael Bush (RB), Matt Shaughnessy (DE), Tyvon Branch (S), Chaz Schilens (WR) and Michael Huff (S) all have bright futures ahead of them.
There are also a number of steady pro players on the roster who are happy to roll their sleeves up and do a job: Cooper Carlisle (OG), Justin Fargas (RB), Chris Johnson (CB), Tommy Kelly (DT), Kirk Morrison (LB), Jon Condo (LS), and Greg Ellis (DE)
This means that the Raiders have around 20 players (and up-to 18 starters) who would not be out of place on a championship team. However, Oakland has far too many question marks against the other 33 members of the roster.
The remaining seven games of the 2009 season will tell us much more about the under-performing players. Some of these will need to be replaced, through free-agency and the draft, whilst the ones with potential will stand-up and be counted.
The seven remaining starting positions are all up for grabs and if the Raiders can engender the correct culture, with a willingness to improve, the last seven games should be very interesting indeed.
The seven jobs in question are:
QB: JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye all have losing records and poor career ratings. The Raiders will not be winners unless they can resolve this problem position.
Al Davis has invested so much money in Russell, but if he cannot break back into the starter’s role, the Silver and Black need a plan B.
WR: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Jonathan Holland, Nick Miller, and Javon Walker are all dropping too many balls. Somebody from this group needs to put their hand(s) up.
FB: Luke Lawton and Gary Russell offer different things to the team, but can one of them be the lead-blocker the Raiders need?
RT: Cornell Green, Khalif Barnes, Erik Pears and even Langston Walker have been tried but too many penalties and too many sacks mean Oakland is still looking for the answer.
C: Samson Satele has shown glimpses of the ability that led the Raiders to trade for him, without being consistent enough yet to be a leader. Chris Morris adds depth to the roster but cannot be considered a regular starter.
DT: The Raiders need a monster NT to tie up blocks in the middle of the defensive line, allowing Seymour, Kelly and Shaughnessy/Ellis to wreak havoc in opposition backfields.
Gerard Warren can be effective and Desmond Bryant may develop given time but an Albert Haynesworth or Haloti Ngata type of player could make the Raiders a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball.
LB: Howard is a lock on the weak side and Kirk Morrison has the skills to move over and play the Sam position, but Oakland could use a dominating MLB. Ricky Brown is not the answer and the other LBs on the roster are currently more special teams players.
Seven games, seven positions: buckle up and enjoy the show.