Oakland Raiders Who Are Changing The Culture In Raider Nation
For the last seven years, Oakland has been the place where players go to end their careers and pick up their last few million from Raider owner Al Davis. The passion and the warrior spirit were things of the past in Raider Nation.
The non-caring culture had spread to the fans too as the 11 straight black-outs would indicate. Suddenly, midway through the season, a change has set about in Raider Nation.
Winning is obviously the cure-all for any woes a franchise may have but one thing must happen first. The mentality must change along with the work ethic, discipline, and attention to detail.
That is what you call a culture change with a football team.
Davis had his work cut out for him and first called upon Tom Cable to run the ship. What Davis surrounded Cable with was what the doctor ordered for Cable to set about this change.
I have wrongfully called for his firing earlier in the season due to some questionable personnel decisions. Some of them remain but I can't overlook the way Cable has developed a winning mentality with the team.
He has had plenty of help from some of his players.
Turn the page to see who they are.
Nnamdi Asomugha: Veteran Leadership
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I mention Nnamdi Asomugha first because he has been the player trying to change the culture in Raider Nation the longest. Asomugha is the best player at his position for a while though his work ethic hasn't quite reached his teammates.
That's probably because he didn't have much to work with early on. But there is now much better talent on this Raider roster to get through to like Jeremy Ware who had an interception on Sunday.
It also helps to have another veteran leader on the team to help him.
Richard Seymour: Veteran Leadership
Richard Seymour is that veteran help Asomugha needed to get it turned around. Seymour hasn't been here as long as Asomugha but he's had a much bigger impact.
There are two reasons for this.
One, Seymour is a defensive lineman and the trenches are where games are won and lost. More importantly, he has three Super Bowl rings and that gets everyone's attention, including Asomugha.
Asomugha said, "Knowing I'm in the presence of greatness makes me want to become greater."
Seymour's impact is being felt by underachiever Tommy Kelly as he starts to earn his pay check. Rookie Lamarr Houston and youngster Matt Shaughnessy are also stepping up in Seymour's presence.
The result is a recent improvement in the Raider run defense and the Raiders being second in the NFL in sacks.
Darren McFadden: Man On a Mission
After hearing all of the bust talk, Darren McFadden is showing us why he was chosen in the first round by the Raiders. McFadden is now one of the top running backs in the league as he leads the league in rushing yards per game.
He has always been fast but he's displaying a physicality that many didn't know he had. He now looks like a man possessed when he has football as he leads the league in yards after contact.
He is also doing a good job of making defenders miss.
The moves are nice but it's the determination he runs with that inspires the men around him. That's the kind of thing that helps change a culture in Raider Nation and his health now allows him to.
McFadden will need his health to continue to hold up as he is on a mission to shed two labels.
The first one is the "bust" label the league was ready to put on him this year. The other one is the "loser" label that has been on the Raiders for the last seven years.
Zack Miller: Looking For His Just Due
The good thing about Zach Miller is that he's been the Raiders most consistent offensive player since 2007. The bad thing about Zach Miller is that he's been the Raiders most consistent offensive player since that time.
What do I mean?
While he's been one of the best tight ends in the league over the years, the Raiders have been losing. The Raiders now have a sober quarterback to get him the ball and other offensive weapons to watch out for.
Miller will have less bracket coverage and get more respect for his play as the Raiders win more. Miller is off to a good start as he went into the bye week third in the league for tight ends in receiving yards.
He's second in the AFC among tight ends in receiving yardage behind only Antonio Gates. A much-deserved Pro Bowl is in reach if Miller gets healthy contributes to wins down the stretch.
My money is on him.
Marcel Reece: Revolutionary Weapon
It isn't always a necessary piece to a winning culture but having a player that revolutionizes the game sure does help. Fullback Marcell Reece is that player that is revolutionizing the game for the Raiders.
Reece is a 250-pound man who is fast and has a wide receiver skill set so it's impossible for a linebacker to cover him. In typical Al Davis fashion, the Raiders take advantage of the match-up by sending Reece deep.
He runs well after the catch too but there were fullbacks before him that did that. Al Davis had done it again by taking an oversized collegiate wide out and turning him into a fullback.
The 1980s Giants had Lawrence Taylor change the way an offense blocked a blitzing outside linebacker. The 1990s Steelers showed that there are plenty of ways that a young, athletic quarterback can help a football team.
Now the Raiders have a fullback who's a deep threat.
Reece makes the defense tip their hand if Reece splits out wide. The Raiders will know its man when the opposing team's linebacker follows him.
The opposing defense will have to use a dime defense on third down because he and tailback Darren McFadden have receiver skill sets. With defenses like that on the field, the Raiders can run for a first down on third and six or seven.
A deep ball to Reece on first down will do just fine too.
Bruce Gradkowski: Ace In The Hole
Even though he isn't the starting quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski is a part of this culture change in more ways in one. Part of the culture change started last year with the victories he pulled of last year.
He rallied the troops and made Raider Nation believe.
Gradkowski also made Davis see that Jamarcus Russell was part of the problem. Now the dark purple cloud over Raider Nation has been lifted and the Raiders already have as many wins this season as they had all of last season.
An underrated part of a winning culture is the back-up quarterback to replace the injured starter. He must also go in and save the day when the starter isn't getting it done.
The 1972 Dolphins had Earl Morrow for Bob Gresie.
The 1988-89 49ers had Steve Young for Joe Montana.
We'll see what Campbell ends up being but it's nice to know Gradkowski is there just in case.
Rescue missions are what he does best.
Rolando McClain: Rookie Leader
Rolando McClain is a rookie but he's a leader in every sense of the word. The middle linebacker studies hard and knows every defensive player's responsibility along with lining them all up.
The Raider defense is now a top 10 ranked unit and McClain is a big reason why. Another thing McClain brings is a winning attitude from his National Championship at the University of Alabama.
The way McClain prepares is one thing but his physicality is contagious to his teammates.
Look for McClain to be an even better leader as time goes by.
Lamarr Houston: Young Winner
The University of Texas has been a perennial Nation Championship contender for the last few years. Lamarr Houston was one of the main reasons why that was the case during his collegiate years.
Another thing Houston is accustomed to is winning his individual battles. That rubbed teammates the wrong way when the Raiders opened camp, but the intense competition made the Raiders better on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
The line of scrimmage hasn't been too kind to the Raiders in recent years but things are changing. Houston has started to become quite disruptive lately as his high motor continues run.
Houston is another Raider I look forward to watching grow.
Louis Murpy: Young Winner
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A big part of a winning culture is a player that usually comes through in the clutch. Louis Murphy is that guy as he was a clutch player on the University of Florida's last National Championship team.
Murphy's clutch gene showed up last year in a couple of close games the Raiders were in. His desire to win showed up this year as he had improved from last year.
Unfortunately, Murphy's bruised lung has made him miss significant time this season. The Raiders are however hopeful to get him back after the bye and add him to quarterback Jason Campbell's list of clutch weapons.
He will be a good go to guy down the stretch if the Raiders are in contention.
Matt Shaughnessy: Young Winner
How in the world is Matt Shaughnessy among the league leaders is sacks with five?
He doesn't even start.
Perhaps that needs to change as Shaughnessy also excels at setting the edge in the run game. He was one of main reasons why the Kansas City Chiefs couldn't get their run game going.
Shaughnessy comes from a winning collegiate program in the University of Wisconsin. They weren't a National Champion during his time there but they won their fair share of games.
I can't wait to see this man start for the Raiders.
Jacoby Ford: Rookie Stepping Up
Every winning team has to have a player who steps up when that time comes for him. He must be patient because one or more players get hurt for him to get his chance.
With Schilens, Miller and Murphy out with injuries, Campbell needed some where to go in the clutch. Ford stepped up and became just what he needed so the Raiders could go on to beat the Chiefs.
Ford was able to prove that all is not lost when the receiving corps is depleted. The consistency of Ford remains the question going forward for the Raiders.
If so, opposing secondaries will not want to see him line up alongside Murphy and Schilens in three wide receiver sets. Ford also showed that he was clutch in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Chiefs.
The Raider offense won't be stopped in the clutch if Ford holds up when Murphy and Schilens come back.
Who will the defense try to take away?
Kamerion Wimbley: Reclamation
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Reclamation projects are usually a big part of a winning culture. They are an unstoppable mix of big time talent with to go along with a huge chip on their shoulder as things didn't work out with their first team.
Reclamation projects are eager to show the world that it wasn't their fault that things didn't work out. Kamerion Wimbley is one of those reclamation projects proving he was worth his first round selection with the Cleveland Browns.
He has done so with a great all-around game.
Wimbley is strong against the run to his side and chases the play down from the backside. He has also excelled in coverage as he rarely gives up a catch to his man.
Wimbley is also tied for eighth among linebackers in sacks and the Raiders just started blitzing. I look forward to more sacks from him as the season goes along as the Raiders keep blitzing.
The pass rush is what he's been known for from the start of his career.
Robert Gallery: Reclamation
Who says you can't reclaim your career while playing for the same team?
Just ask Robert Gallery.
The 2003 first round pick was already labeled as a colossal bust when Cable arrived as an offensive line coach in 2007. Cable in the his best move as a Raider moved Gallery to guard with splendid results.
He has played at or near Pro Bowl level for the last few years at left guard. A few more wins from the Raiders and less injuries from Gallery will land him in Hawaii real soon.
He worked hard to find a way to be an asset to the Raiders instead of accepting his "bust" label.
That's an inspiration to any young player whose career didn't start out too good.
Jason Campbell: Reclamation
Campbell is another first round draft pick who has come to Raider Nation to reclaim his career. He was made the scapegoat for all of the dysfunction in Washington and traded to the Raiders this off season.
He is now on a mission to prove himself not to be a bust in the NFL.
Raider owner Al Davis called Campbell "the next Jim Plunkett" and more pressure was then added. It wasn't so pretty starting out as he was thinking too much and trying to be "too perfect."
After a stint on a bench, Campbell was forced back into action forcing Cable and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson tell him to "cut it loose." The result is a three-game winning streak with the Raiders taking first place in the AFC West.
Campbell himself has posted quarterback ratings over 120 in two of the three games. He then lead a come-back and game winning drive against the Chiefs after a horrible start to the game.
Campbell has shown that he can get it done in different ways during the Raider's winning streak. He must now do whatever it takes to win on a consistent basis to prove that he has arrived in the the NFL.
He has his work cut out starting next week.