Many around the league over the years have said that the Oakland Raiders are always among the most talented teams in the NFL. However, the Raiders finished .500 in 2010 for the first time since the Super Bowl team of 2002.
Talent is supposed to win football games but the Raiders haven't won many games over the last eight years. Many will blame Raider owner Al Davis for this bad stretch of Raider football.
He is the owner so I believe he should take the blame but I only blame him for the high coaching turnover. Most of his coaches during that stretch may have been good but didn't have the same vision as Davis.
Then you have Art Shell, who knew the Raider way but had an offensive system from the '60s. Davis now has another new head coach (Hue Jackson) and lost two key free agents but I believe he finally has it the right.
If you look at perennial contenders like the Patriots, and Steelers, you'll see that the coaches and front office are on the same page. The front office goes out and gets the kind of players that fit the system of the coaches.
As a result, you have "Steeler football" and "the Patriot way."
Jackson has the same vision as Davis and a modern playbook to try to bring back the "Raider way."
Turn the page to see a step by step look at how it's being put together.
The Raiders now have the best coaching staff they've had since the Gruden era. I have to say it's even better than that because Gruden was a west coast offense guy and this staff is a scheme fit for Davis.
Al Davis tried to hire offensive coordinator Al Saunders before as a head coach because of his vertical offense but he declined. Jackson was mentored by Saunders while in Baltimore and that has somehow led to Jackson bring Saunders over from Baltimore as his coordinator.
It's been said that the Raiders will never have a great coaching staff because of Davis but Jackson has made a great impression everywhere he's been. So along with Saunders, he was able to bring in Bob Wylie and Raider legend Steve Wisniewski for the offensive line.
On the defense, Mike Wauffle came along with Jackson in 2010 and he's the best defensive line coach there is. Former Raider middle linebacker Greg Beikert has come in to coach the linebackers for the Raiders.
With Willie Brown going up to the front office, who better than Rod Woodson, who's a Hall of fame player and former Raider himself, to coach the corners. He will join Kevin Ross, the returning secondary coach for the Raiders.
Chuch Bresnahan is a big addition as the Raiders' defensive coordinator because he is the last Raider defensive coordinator to finish in the top 10 (No. 3) against the run. The best thing Jackson did was assemble coaches that are familiar with the "Raider way" and know how to coach accordingly.
There will be harmony here so there won't be spies for Davis and fights in the office. More importantly, the Raiders are know for drafting athletes and now they have the coaching to use and develop them correctly.
From day one minute one as an offensive coordinator in 2010, Jackson has always said, "We're gonna build a bully around here." He would even go as far as telling the defense what play was coming and dared them to stop it.
That always reminded me of Davis' old mantra saying, "Other teams take what the defense gives them. We take what we want." Well, bullies take what they want and it takes certain kinds of players to build a bully.
The Raiders didn't have a first round pick and still made strides toward building the bully he has envisioned. Stefen Wisniewski is a 315 pound center the Raiders picked in the second round to supplant the undersized Samson Satele.
He and third round right tackle Joseph Barksdale are reported to be looking good by Jerry McDonald. http://twitter.com/#!/Jerrymcd The Raiders struck out but where right to make 6'9", 340 left tackle Jared Gaither their top priority.
The word in Raider Nation is that he didn't pass his physical but I'm hoping that he just wasn't in shape. That way the situation can be revisited as Gaither hasn't been pursued by anyone else yet.
Nnamdi Asomugha literally went to greener pastures and Davis may have let Zach Miller walk. Miller wasn't Davis' type of guy because he doesn't stretch the field and they found a late round gem in David Ausberry.
I originally questioned his ability to block but according to McDonald, he's done well blocking. Perhaps Davis took advantage of this unique offseason and was able get a good look at Ausberry before deciding.
A sub-4.5 running tight end is Davis and Saunders' type of guy so I'm looking for this late round gem to get polished. Also a late round gem, Denarius Moore is killing it in camp with his 4.3 wheels and hands like glue.
He will go along with the other Raider speedsters to complete the speed portion of the "bully."
Training camp 2011 under Jackson is much different than training camp 2010 under Tom Cable. Cable had long stretches without full contact to focus on how to technically execute assignments.
Jackson has already led his movement away from smaller more athletic offensive lineman to find big "bullies." In turn, he has dispensed with the walk through, outdoor class room sessions for speed and violence.
Jackson wants his team to practice being "bullies" so he put on the pads on the team as soon as he could to get it under way. He seems to be saying, "Forget all the thinking you tried to do last year in camp. We're going to come off the ball and get after it now!"
That's how you build a bully!
It starts in camp!
Last year, I think the Raiders would have started out better if the had contact and tackling in camp. Huff may not have missed so many tackle in the beginning of the season and Cable might have had a better idea of what to do about the pass blocking of the offensive line.
This year should be different because this has been a violent training camp.
The players were even laying each other out before they put the pads on!
Bill Williamson for ESPN.com reported the Jackson has been showing films and interviews of old Raider players. http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/42749/jackson-brings-raiders-back-to-the-future
Jim Ottto, Jim Plunkett, Ken Stabler, Steve Wizniewski, Greg Biekert, and Rod Woodson were among the players featured. Jackson said, "We're chasing greatness. Not everybody is a Raider. I wanted them to see what is and what it means to be a Raider. This is a special organization. There is a history here and I want those guys to live up to being a Raider."
Raider captain Richard Seymour said, "You can feel it. Just watching the film showed the tradition of this team. For me to see guys like Howie Long and Lyle Alzado was inspiring to me."
Jackson then spoke of how powerful it was when Woodson, Wisniewski, and Biekert were shown. He said, "Guys could look around and see those people in the room. Being a Raider is an opportunity. It's a family."
There's nothing left to do now but get this thing started!
It looks like the Raiders are building a program like the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Players are brought in according how they to fit and the coaches to develop them further to play in it.
This is why they are perennial contenders.
Sure, we can Bill Belechik Belecheat for the video scandle lets not act like the Raiders have never done anything. The old Raider mantra has always been, "if your not cheating, your not trying."
Rule No. 1: Cheating is encouraged.
Rule No. 2: See rule No. 1.
That has always been Davis' and way of doing things.
He now has a head coach that shares that same vision and an offensive system to fit that vision. Jackson brought in a Saunders for the offense and a defensive staff that is also in the mold of the Raider way.
As for the athletes that fit the system, most of them are already there.
Once again, Raider Nation is now one nation!
I'm only willing to predict that they win the AFC West this year but the future is very bright for this team.