The Oakland Raiders were always a team that took chances on players, both in the draft and in free agency, and it worked so well for them for a very long time. So why now have things got so bad that every time the Raiders make a move, sports journalists write it off as a failure without even proper examination?
Similarly like they way they applaud everything done by Bill Belichick without hesitation?
Especially in terms of the draft, the Raiders have lost their way over the last 10 years with their first-round picks.
We always had our busts, like any team. For every Marcus Allen, there was a Charles Philyaw. For every Gene Upshaw, there was a John Clay (who?–exactly).
Oakland batted a little over .500 for the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s in terms of success with the first player taken by them in the draft.
Since 1999, the only truly successful player taken as a first pick has been Nnamdi Asomugha in 2003.
Prior to that it was Charles Woodson in 1998. That is a whole lot of wasted picks and wasted dollars on players who have not performed.
In the 70’s, our first-round winners were Raymond Chester, Jack Tatum, Ray Guy, Henry Lawrence, and Mike Davis. In the 80’s they were Marcus Allen, Don Mosebar, Sean Jones, and Tim Brown.
Even the 90’s, we had Chester McGlockton, Rob Frederickson, Charles Woodson, and Napoleon Kaufman.
In the 10 years following, we had...Nanmdi Asomugha.
So why the decline? I think that there are several reasons.
Firstly, the game has changed. A player with outstanding physical tools can’t dominate the same way they did back in the 70’s and 80’s, or even the 90’s. The game has been turned more into a science than a sport, with all players bigger, stronger, and faster in every way.
Coaches have got a lot smarter, and they have developed systems and schemes to be able to cope with players who have outstanding speed or other physical trait. Those schemes are a lot more complicated and diverse than ever, and the game requires more and more mental ability, with more and more commitment than it ever did.
It is no longer a case of being able to coach a great athlete to be a football player, that athlete has to give 100 percent of themselves in order to develop, instead of relying solely on their physical skills. A lot of those with great physical ability don’t have the great work ethic. That is something that you just can’t coach.
You also get less time with a player under free agency to make a player productive.
Who wants to draft a raw physical phenomenon, take three or four years to develop him, and then lose him to the highest bidder after one or two productive seasons?
Neither is Al Davis getting any younger. He is 80 years old, and whilst his mind may still be sharp, it can’t be as sharp as it was 30 or 40 years ago.
He is also without a general manager, and has been for some time. That has to be a factor when we look at recent results, and Davis needs to take stock here.
My hope for this year is that it will be better. I believe that Davis trusts Tom Cable, and that consequently Cable will have some input into who we select.
If Cable listens to his scouts, and Davis doesn’t fall in love with combine numbers, then things might be on the up again in 2010.