Oakland Raider Offense: The Difference Between The Glory Days and Today
The Oakland Raiders were known throughout their history to have a certain brand of football on offense. During their glory years, they had a great running game with big, physical offensive linemen.
The Raiders have also been the fastest team in the league with Olympic sprinter type receivers. Then there's the big-armed quarterback that they rely on to get the ball down the field to the Raider sprinters.
The Raiders have also had great pass catching tight ends and running backs to check down to. The running backs and tight ends were also great primary targets on third and shorter distances.
I often laugh when I hear commentators speak of how the game has passed Al Davis by and how the vertical game no longer works. The truth is it works in lots of places but just not in Oakland anymore.
The Raiders have most of the ingredients for the vertical offense but lack the most important one.
What separates today's Raider offense now from the glory days is the offensive line. Let's take a look at some Raider lineman from different days of glory to compare to what's there today.
You will then see why the Raiders can't play their brand of offensive football now.
Turn the page to check it out.
Glory Days: Hall Of Fame Left Tackle Art Shell
Art Shell is the best left tackle to ever play the game.
Just ask Hall of Fame defensive end Jim Marshall.
Shell was the cause for there being no statistical evidence that Marshall even played for the Vikings in their Super Bowl 11 loss to the Raiders.
He's the reason why defensive coordinators started moving their pass-rushers to find the right match-up.
If the Raiders ran his way, the hole was open.
He also gave Ken Stabler and later Jim Plunkett extra time to complete the deep ball. The vertical game was alive and well under Shell's watch because you got to the quarterback over his dead body.
He's still alive so you know that didn't happen.
Today: Left Tackle Mario Henderson
From the best left tackle ever to the worst starting left tackle in the league we go. I truly cannot understand what Oakland Raider Head Coach Tom Cable sees in him.
Henderson lead NFL left tackles in sacks given up last year and from the looks of the first two games of the season, he'll do it again. Three quarterbacks in the last ten months have been hurt under his watch.
How is Hue Jackson going to bring the vertical attack back to Raider Nation with Henderson there?
I don't blame Campbell for not being able to light it up so far this season. But Gradkowski's ability to escape and repair broken plays serve the Raiders best at this time.
Campbell can't play with Henderson protecting his blind side.
Glory Days: Hall Of Fame Center Jim Otto
Jim Otto was Raider football and everything you wanted in a center.
He was strong, smart, determined, selfless, and always there when you need him. Otto opened up holes up the middle and kept pressure out of the face of quarterbacks like Daryl Lamonica.
No wonder Lamonica had all that time to get the ball deep to Warren Wells. Every great center that came along after Otto in Raider Nation was compared to him. (Dave Dalby Don Mosebar Barrett Robbins)
He is also recognized by many as the best ever to play center in the NFL.
Too bad we don't have one half way like him now.
Today: Center Samson Satele
Again we go from the best at their position of all time to the worst in today's game. He's so bad that a rookie from a division two school that was a left tackle had to come in and replace him.
After the experiment failed, Satele looked better against the Rams but still didn't look like a good center. The Rams aren't very physical up front on defense so Satele didn't get overwhelmed too much .
I really hope that the Raiders find someone else before they play another good team. Satele led the league in sacks given up at the center position so it's urgent.
How long would he be in the league without Cable?
Glory Days: Right Guard Frank Middleton
Frank Middleton was huge and he played that way.
Middleton kept pressure out of the face of Rich Gannon and plowed open holes for Raider runners. The Raiders were regularly atop the NFL rushing ratings during his time in Raider Nation.
That's because Middleton used his size and strength to do more then just pancake you. The 6'3, 330 pound Middleton used his attributes to flat-bread you.
Stay out of his way!
Today: Right Guard Cooper Carlisle
I don't like writing this one because I love Cooper Carlisle.
He gave Raider nation everything he had and was one of the few bright spots in 2007-08. The unfortunate thing is we all age and Carlisle has no more to give Raider Nation.
Cable needs to tell him that because we have games to win.
Glory Days: Right Tackle Lincoln Kennedy
Lincoln Kennedy was a 6'6, 335 pound jolly giant.
Mashing the man in front of him is the very thing that made Kennedy jolly. He did plenty of that on his way to three Pro Bowls in seven years with the Raiders
Kennedy is another huge Raider lineman that opened running lanes and protected the quarterback. He played right next to Middleton during the 2002 Super Bowl run.
Kennedy, Middleton, and Barrett Robbins were among the first linemen leading the way to the "Pound the rock." phrase used by "Jon Chucky" Gruden.
Today: Right Tackle Langston Walker
The Raiders sure do like them big don't they?
Langston "Clubber Lang Walker is 6'8, 365 pounds.
Is he the biggest man in the NFL?
Walker was actually drafted in the second round in 2002 to eventually replace the also huge Kennedy. He looked to be making good progress toward that before chasing the money to Buffalo in 2007.
After playing well in Buffalo, Walker came back to Raider Nation and replaced an injured Robert Gallery at left guard in 2009. This year, Walker is back at his old right tackle spot in 2010.
We'll see how this one goes.
Glory Days: Hall Of Fame Left Guard Gene Upshaw
Like Shell and Otto, Gene Upshaw was another Hall of Famer that could have been the best at his position. If you can believe it, Upshaw actually played with the other two Raider legends for seven years.
However, the "Emaculate Deception" stopped the trio from going to the Super Bowl after the 1974 season. But the Raiders had another great center in Dave Dalby waiting in the wings when Otto retired in 1974.
Then that trio would go on to win Super Bowl 11. (1976)
It was in Super Bowl 11 that Upshaw first rose to legendary status. He dominated Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page at the same time that Shell dominated Marshall.
Upshaw would go on to win one more Super Bowl with the other two legends in 1980.
Today: Robert Gallery
I picked this position last because Robert Gallery is the smallest drop off from the Raider glory years. He is by far their best offensive lineman and should be who the Raiders build around up front.
I particularly like Gallery's story because he was a bust at left tackle but found a way to be a contributor by switching positions. Gallery is a road grader in the run game that pass-blocks well as a guard.
If he could just stay healthy, he will get his trip to Hawaii.
Campbell was called "the next Jim Plunkett" before he was benched in the second half of week two. He is still a very talented quarterback but let's remember Plunkett had great protection when he played.
Gradkowski is the best quarterback for the Raiders right now because he's not a pocket passer anyway. He's a scrambler that could take off at any time but that's not the Raider's brand of football.
The only way for the Raiders to get back to their glory days is to protect Campbell. He's going to need time to get the ball down the field to the fast receivers.
The Raiders need to stay with Gradkowski because they cant' protect the quarterback. Along with Gradkowski comes a different brand of football that's more conducive to what Gradkowski does well.
Playing the old Raider brand of football will get Campbell killed behind this group of offensive lineman.
I just hope Gradkowski holds up.
I hope you enjoyed the slide show.