Since 2003, Raider Nation has been accustomed to big spending in free agency, in many cases on retread players, and questionable trades.
Then the "Al Davis is crazy" program would iterate and eventually, even the players, fans, and employees would start to believe it and lose confidence in the team; merely showing up in order to get paid and make any attempt possible to distance themselves from Al Davis.
Much of that iteration is fueled by the fact that Al Davis is indifferent towards opinions about him and his decisions, because well, people have called him crazy ever since he started giving big checks to and using high draft picks on minority players, when the paradigm was that you could merely wait until later rounds to take minority players.
Such as Hall of Fame tackle Art Shell or Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw, both of whom were selected much higher than expected. Because well, it was an accepted paradigm that you could take minority players from small schools in later rounds.
Al Davis today is still hearing the same line about his sanity. Only now, the Raiders haven't been winning, as the Raiders did for the better part of fourty years.
Ironically, I had to iterate the iteration in order to give some context to this article.
The Big Q in QB
Much of the narrative around the Raiders this off-season has been the question of whom will be the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders.
Recently, the media has been a-buzz with gossip that the Raiders would acquire quarterback Donovan McNabb and that McNabb would retire in the event of a trade to the Raiders.
That however has been refuted by McNabb himself in an article by Jerry McDonald:
Talking with host Ryen Rusillo on the Scott VanPelt Show (ESPN Radio), McNabb was asked what he would have done had he been traded to the Raiders.
“I would have been at the workouts and working out with the team, throwing and trying to get the timing down with the corps of receivers and running backs they have and communicated with the offensive line to get ready for minicamp,” McNabb said.
When Rusillo asked about the threat to retire, McNabb at first laughed out loud.
“Retirement?,” he said.
McNabb went on to elaborate.
“This is the problem with some of these so-called key analysts and these smart guys out there who go by `sources.’ So many people listen to different sources `close to’ the individual, but never the individual, saying that I would have not showed up in Oakland, I would have been upset . . . hey, with my name always being in the media all the time because of trade talk, I’m just happy that it’s over. I don’t mind being on ESPN if it’s something positive for my play, not for where I’m going to land next. A lot of it was blown way out of proportion.”
The Other Blind Side
Of course, the Washington Redskins instead acquired McNabb, in a trade that blind-sided the sports media, because well, the sports media was too busy with gossip about the Raiders and how crazy they think Al Davis is.
We in Raider Nation have been quick to accuse the sports media of being against us, which I think is true in some cases, but not entirely. There are some isolated individuals that have mis-used their positions in the sports media to channel their inexplicable malice towards the Raiders.
Those persons shall remain nameless, because I'd rather not dignify their existence anymore.
Okay, I'm being hyperbolic. I can be one hard-hitting sarcastic joker.
We should however give the sports media some credit here. I think that the majority opinion is that the Raiders can be a respectable team with NFL caliber play from the quarterback, as we all saw from Bruce Gradkowski in the late 2009 season.
More or less, once the quarterback situation is in order, the Raiders should leave the NFL cellar and deny a top ten pick to the Patriots in 2011.
Bucking the trend
In years past, the Raiders often collected veterans to mix with youngsters.
Now, rumors have floated about Michael Vick being traded to the Raiders from the Eagles. Nevertheless, one big difference this off-season has been a youth movement in Oakland, so my guess is that the Raiders won't acquire Vick.
Think about this, as detailed by Jerry McDonald.
Jeff Garcia and Lorenzo Neal were cut before the 2009 season, as Justin Fargas and Greg Ellis were after the season. Meanwhile, the Raiders have yet to sign Richard Seymour to a long-term deal, while the Raiders never even tried to sign LaDainian Tomlinson or Terrell Owens.
The only acquisition thus far has been LB-DE Kamerion Wimbley from Cleveland for a 3rd round pick. The Wimbley trade still perplexes me, but overall, the moves by the Raiders have bucked the trends of years past.
I would also add that Al Davis has retained Coach Cable, when he could have fired the coach (beleagured by gossip created in the sports media and charges by an employee trying to make a power play) and hired an established one.
NFL Draft and other needs
We do need upgrades on the offensive-line, which will likely be addressed in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Many Raider fans would like to see the Raiders trade-down and load-up on offensive-linemen. Nevertheless, the expectation is that what Al Davis wants, Al Davis gets and that Maryland offensive-tackle Bruce Campbell is likely in Davis' cross-hairs.
Especially if Mr. Davis is thinking that Campbell is another Art Shell.
I could live with the Raiders taking Campbell, if it isn't at 8th overall. If safety Eric Berry is still on the board at 8th overall, I would bet that other clubs would be interested in trading-up. In that event, I would hope that Mr. Davis would continue the off-season trend of doing things differently and trade down.
However, my preference would be to acquire Jared Gaither from the Ravens. It however is uncertain as to whether Gaither is truly on the trading block.
I think the issue is price. If the Ravens make it clear that Gaither is tradeable, then that will lower his price. I think a great trade would be if the Raiders swapped first-round picks with the Ravens in exchange for Gaither and a lower round pick.
To recall a previous thought, the Ravens could be interested in Eric Berry as a future replacement for Ed Reed.
The Raiders receiver corp could be underrated despite speculation that the Raiders could target another rookie. I say that, because the attention has been on Darrius Heyward-Bey and the fact that the Raiders passed-on Michael Crabtree in order to take a "track star" in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens have been over-shadoweed and could emerge as go-to receivers for the Raiders quarterback, while tight end Zach Miller was a ProBowl alternate in 2009.
Murphy, was taken in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL Draft and went largely overlooked by fans and media alike, but Murphy was a key player in many of the late season heroics by Bruce Gradkowski and even JaMarcus Russell. Murphy's totals in 2009 weren't eye-popping but relative to rookie receivers, Murphy finished well.
The Raiders need to be patient with the current corp, because once the quarterback situation is in order, then that quarterback can develop a rapport with the receivers.
Outside the box
I think the rumors about the Raiders and the quarterback situation have seemed insidious because we in Raider Nation believe that between JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, and Charlie Frye that a quarterback will emerge to lead the Raiders.
Of course, these questions about the QB situation have presented a complex calculus of potential problems for the Raiders.
If Gradkowski or Frye win the starting spot, then Russell's career and his millions of dollars will have gone to waste, when we assume that Al Davis is committed to the success of Russell, in spite of anything else.
Russell would go down in NFL history with busts such as Ryan Leaf, even though Russell has never displayed the same sociopathic demeanor that characterized the short career of Leaf.
Moreover, Leaf set-back the Chargers for years. If the Raiders were to dump Russell, it probably would not be as detrimental to the Raiders potential. Just bad PR, which would dissipate once the Raiders start winning.
If however, Russell were to win the spot, we would wonder whether Al Davis forced the hand of Coach Cable, and would wait with much trepidation for the 2010 season, while being forced to hear questions about the future of Coach Cable, Russell, and whether Al Davis should be forced from ownership.
Nevertheless, if Russell were to win the spot, it would be possible that Russell could return to the promising play he displayed towards the end of the 2008 season.
Perhaps we should stop and think about this
Then there is the other possibility of just finding another quarterback before the 2010 season.
Recently, Redskins great Joe Theismann said, to paraphrase, that Russell will never be an NFL caliber quarterback, because he just doesn't get it. Theismann would propose that the Raiders should take interest in an acquisition of Washington quarterback Jason Campbell.
As a die-hard Raider fan who is bound by a rivalry with the Redskins, I must say that Theismann's comment seems salient.
Raider fans have been quick to blow-off the criticism because of the Raiders-Redskins rivalry, but I can't forget a comment once made by Theismann in which he called former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon one of the five best in NFL history.
It's hard for me to believe that Theismann is unreasonably biased against the Raiders with a comment like that.
There has also been speculation about the Raiders being interested in Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
For more than one reason, Tebow would fit what Al Davis covets from a quarterback; a fiery competitor that finds a way to win. Tebow would also be reunited with Florida receiver Louis Murphy.
Not only that but, Raiders offensive coach Hue Jackson worked with another raw quarterback, Joe Flacco, while with the Baltimore Ravens.
Conclusion: Boldly Go Where Al Davis Has Never Gone Before
The Raiders can be a respectable team once the quarterback situation is in order.
It could take some bold moves by the organization, but commitment to a player that is willing to reciprocate that commitment is often more beneficial to a team's success than a talented but apathetic player.
Obviously, I alluded to JaMarcus Russell. The heat is on him to show that he can lead, while the Raiders should not mitigate the decision based on his salary and the bad PR that would follow a decision against him.
I wouldn't tinker with the receiver corp by adding rookies. I would add a veteran, but not rookies.
The Raiders need offensive lineman, a strong-side linebacker, nose tackle, and youth on defense. The best course of action would be to collect draft picks by trading down and thus save money.
I realize that has not been the Al Davis way, but perhaps, the relative quiet from the Raiders this off-season could mean a different plan for the Draft.
And to reiterate once again, the bad PR will dissipate once the Raiders start winning.