For the last seven years going into the 2010 season, the Oakland Raiders were known as the most dysfunctional franchise in the league. Raider Nation was known as the place for a washed-up player to go and collect one final paycheck.
Former Raider defensive tackle Warren Sapp said, "There's some stuff goin' on over there that shouldn't happen."
Former Raider defensive back DeAngelo Hall has spoken of why top free agents shouldn't get sucked into the Black Hole.
The Randy Moss debacle sure isn't a case for the Raiders, as he became a Hall of Fame receiver once again after leaving Raider Nation.
Moss once said, "If they don't know how to use me right, they should let me go somewhere else."
That tells us that it is more about coaching and management than anything.
Many said, "The Raiders need a better staff of coaches, but no good coordinator or coach of any type will ever go to Oakland. Al Davis interferes too much, so a respected coach of any kind would never go there. That place is for a coach who just needs to add experience to his resume."
Davis does get into things a bit but his "interfering" is very overrated. Most of the "interfering" throughout the history of the Raiders has been when the team wasn't winning and it was his opinion, not the final word.
Just remember it was Tom Cable's decision to bench Jason Campbell in favor of Bruce Gradkowski after Campbell's win streak ended. What happens when you go against Davis and don't at least make the playoffs is another thing.
Enter Hue Jackson.
Cable was a simple stop gap coach until Davis could hire the offensive mind that he wanted. Jackson appeared to be that guy, so Davis hired him as an offensive coordinator to prove himself worthy.
Now the Raiders have a head coach who is widely respected around the league.
Turn the page to see how he has changed the culture and made Raider Nation the place to be.
There are many around the league and in Raider Nation who like to name Cable as the reason the Raiders finished .500 for the first time since 2002. They say he motivated the players and kept them focused and playing hard all year.
So I guess Cable didn't motivate the players in when he first became the head coach of the Raiders.
What was different about 2010?
You have to say it was Hue Jackson, as the players notice the difference in practice right away in training camp. Nnamdi Asomugha said, "There's a lot more tempo in training camp than in years past."
Jackson was the one who constantly talked smack to all the defensive players. He would even tell the defensive players the play the offense was running and dare them to stop it.
Isn't making big plays and scoring points the biggest motivation to a team anyway?
The Raiders went from the No. 31 scoring offense to No. 6 under Jackson's watch. Before Jackson's arrival, the Raiders seemed to know that they were going to lose as soon as the opposing team scored a touchdown.
Now the Raiders know they can come back and score.
Davis' philosophy is, "Other teams take what the defense gives them. We take what we want." From the beginning of Jackson's stint with the Raiders, Jackson has said, "We are going to build a bully around here."
That sounds pretty similar to me.
How about the vertical offense that Hue Jackson brought to Raider Nation?
That wasn't something Jackson patched together just to get Davis to hire him. Jackson added the vertical game to the Baltimore Ravens offense to take advantage of quarterback Joe Flacco's arm.
Jackson is also a believer in using the vertical game off of play action as a result of an effective power running game. This is a philosophy Davis has had for decades, so this is a philosophical match made in Heaven.
Add to that the fact that the Raiders had the aforementioned jump from No. 31 to No. 6 in scoring offense. That gave Davis all the reason he needed to entrust his franchise to Jackson.
He's even let Jackson assemble a coaching staff that could make him more comfortable.
How in the world can the Raiders bring in a top-notch offensive coordinator to replace Jackson after his ascension to head coach?
It has happened because Hue Jackson is respected around the league. Jackson coached with Saunders while in Baltimore and left a great impression on him.
Saunders wouldn't even come to the Raiders to be a head coach in the past as Davis tried to hire him twice. Now he is in Raider Nation as an offensive coordinator under Jackson.
Do you think a man that turned Davis down twice would have left Baltimore for Raider Nation under Cable?
That's what I thought.
Another hint of the respect that Hue Jackson has around the league is the recent hiring of Rod Woodson as the cornerbacks coach. Woodson gave up his microphone and makeup at NFL Network to come to Raider Nation.
You can't call this a typical Raider ex-player hiring because he played for lots of teams and went into the Hall of Fame as a Steeler.
As it is, Jackson reached out to Woodson and has now replaced one HOF corner for another after the retirement of Willie Brown.
Do you see Woodson leaving NFL Network for Cable?
Hue Jackson coached Chad Johnson in Cincinnati as the Bengals wide receivers coach. Johnson made his feeling about Jackson clear, saying,"I don't care where Hue Jackson got a job, I would go play for him, run through a wall, jump in front of a bus, etc. You get the point."
He also said, "Man he was the greatest coach I ever had. He would choke me out, cuss me out just to make sure I was precise on everything."
Jackson was the receivers coach in Cincinnati from 2004 to 2006, and Johnson was mighty good back then.
This isn't a recommendation of any sort.
It just points out the respect he gets from people he has been associated with around the league.
The word out of Baltimore is that the Ravens and Jared Gaither are very far apart in their contract negotiations. The negotiations have come to a halt for now, with Gaither saying he still wants to be a Raven.
While remaining a Raven is what he portrays in the media, Gaither has expressed a desire to play under Jackson and Saunders, according to a source.
Saunders is actually the main one Gaither wishes to play for again, according to that source, but he does have tremendous respect for Jackson.
This is actually a situation I hope the Raiders take advantage of, as the Colts are also interested. A franchise left tackle equals finding out if you have a franchise...a franchise quarterback in this case.
But it's all up to the Ravens, because they can still tender Gaither again.
There might have been some who weren't thrilled about Cable not getting an extension at season's end. But that was suddenly drowned out after they received news that Jackson was promoted to replace him.
Star tight end Zach Miller said, "I'm excited about Hue Jackson getting the head coaching job. I really like the direction that our offense is going in and how much we improved.
"This is the best offensive year we've had since I've been a Raider. I'm excited to have the continuity."
That's nice to hear for Raider fans, as Miller is soon to be a free agent.
Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the first to notice the difference Jackson made because he had to hear it out of Jackson's mouth with his trash talking.
Asomugha said, "You know what? His mouth always gets guys going. He's always like that. It's fun for us."
Asomugha noticed more than just Jackson's trash talk and motivation. He said, "What I'm seeing on the practice field is different. I'm seeing an offense that is multiple, confident, and doing things I haven't seen in a while. That's why I'm excited."
Then Asomugha saw the Raider offense more than double its output from the 2009 season. Then Cable was allowed to walk after the season and Asomugha didn't like that decision.
But Asomugha changed his tone after Jackson was hired, saying, "He (Jackson) was with us during the 8-8 season, and that was the best season we've had in eight years. So he understands the players and knows what it takes to win.
"So I think bringing Hue along has to be the right choice if you're getting rid of Tom Cable.
That makes things sound a bit better for Raider fans, knowing Asomugha will head into free agency. It also has to help the Raiders cause for Jackson to add Woodson to his staff.
Asomugha gives Woodson a lot of credit for his development as a player already.
The Raiders now have one of the best coaching staffs in the league. Hue Jackson has gained enough trust in Davis to bring the guys in that he wants, while Jackson's reputation has brought in a coach that Davis has always wanted. (Al Saunders)
Provided they sign their free agents, the roster is very talented and will now be set up for success. Jackson's reputation and the coaching staff he's brought in has led to the players being more likely to stay.
They see the direction of the organization and are excited about what they see. With free agency to start soon, players becoming free agents will start to see Raider Nation as the place to be.
Now that's a culture change!
The next step is the playoffs.