You know, it's kind of painful to see one of the most dominant NFL franchises fall flat on its face. The team that dominated during the 1970s is almost unrecognizable now.
Recognize the man in the photo? Yeah, that's Rich Gannon. The last great Raiders quarterback to even strike a shred of fear into opposing defenses. Gannon won the 2002 NFL MVP throwing for almost 4700 yards and 26 touchdowns along with a 97.3 passer rating.
Let me repeat those numbers again: 4700 yards AND 26 touchdowns!
No Raiders signal caller has come within sniffing distance of those numbers since then. Gannon also led the 2002 Raiders to an 11-5 record and Super Bowl XXXVII, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and ex-head coach Jon Gruden who seemed to know every move they were going to make.
Since that day in San Diego on January 26, 2003, the Raiders have looked like, no pun intended, a shell of their former selves. They have had no less than five wins in each of the past five seasons, garnering a 19-64 record.
The starting quarterbacks they have yielded since Gannon's Pro Bowl season have...well they haven't been good, to say the least, and have gone through different head coaches in the same time frame with not one lasting two full seasons.
They have also had multiple busts in the draft since 2002. From top to bottom the organization has become a laughing stock to the rest of the NFL.
You have to give this to Raider Nation though; they come to see their team play. No matter how badly they get beat, they are in the Coliseum going crazy as one of the most passionate and intimidating fan bases in the league. I cannot imagine being the visiting quarterback and having to endure all that verbal abuse from those fans.
They do have reason for hope though. JaMarcus Russell will attempt to re-energize the passing game with his size and rocket arm. Darren McFadden will hope to be utilized in the same role as Reggie Bush did down in New Orleans. They also have a strong defense, adding Pro Bowl CB DeAngelo Hall from the Falcons in the off-season.
Oakland has had an embarrassing fall from grace but can they rebound? Only time will tell.
On a personal note, my condolences go to Gene Upshaw and his family. Upshaw passed away last night at the age of 63 from pancreatic cancer. The former head of the NFL Players Association will surely be missed by all.