While the Oakland Raiders had a fairly quiet offseason this year by their standards, the twists and turns of the regular season have kept fans on their toes wondering what is in store for a once great franchise in the very near future.
There are a thousand questions that Raider nation wants the answers to, like, is this the year Al Davis steps down? Will Oakland draft another quarterback in the 2010 draft? Is Kirk Morrison the answer at middle linebacker? Does Richard Seymour still want to help this team turn around? Will Al make another head coaching change?
While I cannot provide the answers to these questions, I can offer honest and insightful opinions to these and any other questions you might have.
So let's start from the top...no pun intended.
Is this the year Al Davis steps down?
To be painfully honest towards the folks associated with www.messagetoal.com, the answer is no. You don't have to even be a fan to realize that the only time Al will ever give in to what anyone else wants is when he drops the ball on life.
Al will not reliquish a role that he so meticulously stole, fair and square. He still thinks he knows the ins and outs of the game and nobody will convince him otherwise.
In fact, many people who are or have been associated with him believe he is still mentally sane. Lane Kiffin sure isn't doing anything to help us think otherwise either.
To top all that off, the fact of the matter is that Al has assembled a team with a ton of talent and no direction. I don't think that a talent scout like a new GM is the ideal answer, even though I do agree that Al is the common denominator in the past six or seven seasons.
What we need is an ideal system for the players that exist, not new or different players.
Will the Oakland Raiders draft another quarterback in the 2010 draft?
I won't say that they won't for the simple fact that Al Davis will do it just to prove that I am wrong. The real meat of this question is not will they draft a quarterback, but will they draft a quarterback in the first or second round of the draft?
Being truly honest, I can't see how it helps. All it would do is give us another undeveloped talent to coach up. I could see them trying to find a quarterback in the late rounds of the draft. Trying to strike gold like Tom Brady.
Then again, at this point they could go to their local supermarket and try to find the next Kurt Warner too, but it doesn't mean that he is there bagging groceries, or that if he was anybody would know it.
Oakland does not have the financial stability right now to make their top pick in 2010 another quarterback. My advice would be to go after a hard nosed middle linebacker. Someone who could provide that run defense support they have been looking for. Or maybe add another lineman that was expected in the 2009 draft.
It takes a good three years for a good quarterback to be worth anything to a team. The 2006 class of quarterbacks are just now starting to take the reigns of teams, with the exception of Jay Culter, who has not really won anything to boot.
The 2005 draft was Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith.
2004's draft provided us with Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning, who are both starting to get into that elite talk.
And in spite of the early sucess of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, their sophomore seasons have been much less impressive so far.
Oakland has more pressing needs than another quarterback, like a right tackle, a good center, a true middle linebacker, and a nickel cornerback.
Plus, there is a feasible group of quarterbacks there. The best thing the Raiders could do right now is make it an open competition next year. Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski are both hungry to prove themselves worthy of a second chance. Both of those guys believe they still have what it takes.
JaMarcus Russell is bursting with talent, but has very little motivation. He is probably just hungry in general. Perhaps an open competition would light a fire under his butt that is getting bigger every moment he wastes sitting on it.
Is Kirk Morrison the answer at middle linebacker?
I really think he has stepped up his game this year with a better defensive line in front of him. I've been a witness to him making more tackles at the point of attack than any other year I remember.
In spite of his improvement in that respect, I still have to say he is not the answer. I appreciate the leadership he shows, but I don't see that Ray Lewis or Mike Singletary mentality in the kid.
I think Oakland needs a true middle linebacker. A hard nosed guy who plays light out, flies to the ball and attacks it. Makes halfbacks scared to run towards him and makes quarterbacks fear his blitz.
While I don't think Kirk has what it takes to play the middle, I think that if he could concede to playing outside linebacker, he might still lead the team in tackles. He is a guy who plays with a lot of heart, but I just fail to see the mean streak in him that is needed to hold the fort in the middle in the 4-3 defense.
Whether by free agency or trade, Oakland needs to bring in a guy who changes the mentality of their defense.
Does Richard Seymour still want to help turn the team around?
Call me an optimist, but I think that he truly does want to help turn the team around. The year that the Patriots drafted Seymour they were a 5-11 team. They lost to Cleveland and Detroit that year by a combined score of 53-20.
I think Richard believes he helped turn that franchise around. I think he feels like the same opportunity exists in Oakland, aside from two things:
A. Oakland has more talent than New England did at that time.
B. Richard thinks that he is in his prime right now and not a rookie.
To add to that, he knows that if he doesn't sign a contract with Oakland in the offseason, he will end up getting the franchise tag repeatedly until he concedes to signing.
Of course he has the desire to win and he knows that the team is better with him in the line-up. There is a good core group on defense in Oakland. Those blown plays on defense are very similar to the blown plays on offense when you break down the film.
A foot off here, an arms length there, a missed assignment away from being a big play for the defense instead of the contrary.
The bottom line is, Richard Seymour will be an Oakland Raider next year regardless of what he really wants.
Will Al Davis make another coaching change?
I fear that he will. I know a lot of people are hoping that he does because they think that Tom Cable is worthless. Unlike you, I see what is happening.
Al Davis fired Lane Kiffin for several reasons. One of the reasons was not developing the young talent on the roster. From the time Tom Cable took over coaching duties, we've seen some young talents emerge in this group.
Tyvon Branch, Mario Henderson, Chaz Schilens, Michael Huff, Trevor Scott, and Michael Bush to name a few.
More recently, Matt Shaughnessy, Gary Russell, and Louis Murphy are starting to look like they have a good upside.
The coaching staff is one of the most highly regarded that Oakland has had in my recent memory. Ted Tollner, Paul Hackett, Dwaine Board, and John Marshall all have very nice track records.
Moreover, the teams' play recently has shown me that they are on the right track in spite of the losses. I see them all making strides, putting in the effort, and making some big plays. Continuing to play for each other despite the record...growing.
If they continue on the path they are on, the team will gel. Kirk Morrison said after the loss to the Chiefs that he thought the team was starting to gel. The next week they came out and beat the Bengals, meanwhile the Chiefs beat the Steelers.
Last week, the first half of the game was a wash. The throws were slightly off target, but the running game looked fantastic. Some spectators say they abandoned the run too abruptly. In the second half of the game, the passing game got going a bit.
The second half was technically won by Oakland; had they kicked that field goal, they outscored Dallas 10-7. The first quarter ended 3-0 Dallas. So really, they died in the second quarter by allowing big plays on defense and not making any big plays on offense.
My hope is that the team continues to show this type of progress and Al Davis sees it. Ultimately, that is what it boils down to. The big guy upstairs has to see it, it doesn't matter what you or I think.
One thing I know is that Tom Cable has this team. The team believes in what Cable is telling them, and Al Davis stands to lose a lot more by abandoning Tom's staff than he would gain.
Tom's relationship with Al Davis is rumored around the Oakland facilities to be the best coach/owner relationship since Jon Gruden.
So there you have it, take it or leave it, but it's an honest, and in my opinion, very logical set of answers to some unresolved issues in Raiders' camp. Feel free to post your questions in the comments section and I'll feel free to answer them.
See My Message to Al: http://fanhuddle.com/oaklandraiders/2009/12/01/oakland-raiders-my-message-to-al-davis/