Despite a disappointing season in 2009, there are a number of reasons to think that things will be better for the Silver and Black in 2010. The building blocks of that brighter future were laid this year in a number of ways.
The first and most important thing is that the players in the locker room want to win.
That may sound obvious, but in recent years that will to win has been lacking. Players often just came in on Sunday, collected their paychecks and went home. Even after a tough loss, they didn't seem to care.
This year they do, this is a better squad with better team spirit.
That spirit was built by Tom Cable, both in the way he coached and the players he/AL brought in or drafted, such as Richard Seymour and Louis Murphy.
We have some continuity (for the moment), in that it looks like Tom Cable will be back next year.
Since Jon Gruden's departure, we have had a revolving door of coaches, none of whom have stayed more than two years. Although Cable only got part of a season his first year, it will still be more than anyone else since Gruden.
Continuity is so important to the success of a team, and you don't win without it.
Quarterbacks don't develop or get the best out of themselves without it, and offenses changing system every year don't progress. Players you draft or sign to fit one system might not do so well in a different one. With a new system, you essentially have to reassess your whole roster.
Tom Cable has also handed over the play calling duties and an offensive coordinator has been hired. Cable struggled at times with playcalling last year and this was clearly a move that needed to be made.
Hue Jackson should help the offense make strides, and be good for the development of the young quarterbacks on the roster (who knows, maybe even Russell?)
Another reason for optimism is the draft. This draft is strong in the areas that the Raiders need to address, namely offensive and defensive tackle, and also has some good prospects at linebacker. It isn't every year there are quality players at need positions.
If Oakland drafts wisely (easier said than done in Oakland I know), it could make a bigger impact on this team than any draft of the past 10 years, and go a long way to making the Raiders competitive again.
As for the schedule for next year, starting with our own division, things are also looking up. It may have been the last chance for the current San Diego Chokers team to go to the Superbowl, and with a number of aging players and others in contract years (not to mention Norv Turner as head coach) this is surely a team in decline.
The Raiders have to play many tough out of division games, as we will see teams from the NFC West (Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis), and the AFC South (Indianapolis, Tennessee, Houston, and Jacksonville).
With the exception of Indianapolis and Arizona, all those games should be winnable if the team is in last years' form.
So with some continuity, a more complete coaching staff, an easier schedule and (hopefully) a good draft, the 2010 season is starting to look quite bright for the Oakland Raiders.