Someone once said that, "those who can not learn from history are doomed to repeat it".
I guess that statement can be a matter of perspective depending on whom it's applied to and what part of history is being repeated.
Al Davis has seen this statement come to pass as the Raiders have revisited the mid 90's. During those dark times the Raiders were plagued with underachieving players and coaches that were as equally ineffective. The greatness of the Raiders trickled away with the great players like Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson and Howie Long, all leaving one by one. The long legacy of the Raiders winning ways faded into mediocrity.
In 1998 Al Davis hired a young head coach named Jon Gruden. After a disappointing 4-12 season the year before, the Raiders had glaring needs and they answered by drafting Charles Woodson, Mo Collins and Jon Ritchie.
After reaching 8-8 in 1998 Davis and Gruden once again approached the draft with glaring needs. Matt Stinchcomb, Eric Barton and Rod Coleman were the newest Raider rookies that would make an impact.
The 1999 season ended with a second consecutive 8-8 record. The difference was though, was that the Raiders went from a bad team, to an inconsistent team. During that season, the Raiders beat the 10-6 Minnesota Vikings, 9-7 Kansas City Chiefs, 9-7 Seattle Seahawks, 11-5 Buffalo Bills, and the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the flip side, they lost to some very subpar teams along the way. The Raiders never put together more than two consecutive wins the whole season.
Tom Cable's Raiders will have the same opportunity this year that Jon Gruden's did after the 1999 season. He is coaching an inconsistent group that will need a boost from this year’s draft as well as free agency. Instead of a complete overhaul, the Raiders should be looking for some leadership in key positions.
The 2009 Raider team accomplishments mirror those of the 1999 one. They both proved that they can play with the best. They both proved that they could keep fighting and prevail in the end.
During this offseason Al Davis and Cable have an opportunity to fix the finger sized holes in the dam. Free agency and the draft are just around the corner and the team still has needs in key positions. Vocal leaders are needed as well.
In the 2000 season the youth of the Raiders began to take over and veterans were mixed in to guide them. In 2010 the same scenario could unfold before our very eyes.
The Raiders have their share of young talent, but they have yet to shine. Some like Michael Huff and Tommy Kelley are getting better in increments, while others like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden have yet to be used to their fullest potential.
Breakout players like Louis Murphy and Mario Henderson have created a lot of excitement for the future. Mike Mitchell, Desmond Bryant, Matt Shaugnessy, and Nick Miller look like they will have a solid future as starters when given the opportunity.
The question is will Davis and Cable go out and get the players needed to fill the cracks in the Raiders game? Are they willing to put the best players on the field or will they continue to put the cart before the horse?
One decade after 1999, Raider fans witnessed history repeats itself. The question this offseason is will it be allowed to complete its work.