Well, here we are Raider Nation.
The Raiders at 7-8 after a roller-coaster season of pessimism and optimism.
Early this season, I claimed that the Raiders could get hot down the stretch after they started 1-3.
Some thought I was nuts.
Lately, all the talk amongst Raider fans has been whether the Raiders should fire head-coach Tom Cable, now that the Raiders have been eliminated from postseason contention.
My simple answer is: no, but ...
Raider Nation could sit around and pout because the Chiefs made the playoffs instead, but consider a few things. Dark-horse teams like Kansas City rarely duplicate their success the following year, because of a tougher schedule and more attention from opponents.
I would rather not collate all the examples.
Whereas, "slow and steady" teams usually contend in the long-run, because those teams build a foundation rather than become impatient after a let down.
Right now, the Raiders have won seven games. In 2009, the Raiders won five.
Seemingly, the difference is only two games. Yet consider this: In 2009, all of the Raider wins were by only a hair or at the last minute, while the Raiders have won convincingly in 2010 and simply fell short in all but two games, at Tennessee and at Pittsburgh.
They did this with one of the youngest teams in the NFL, including three rookies as starters. In several of the losses, the difference was merely two or three plays that could be attributed to rookie mistakes. And the Raiders did this with injuries to key players, such as corner back Nnamdi Asomugha.
From the 2010 Draft, the Raiders selected three and maybe five players that could be 10-year starters, in middle linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive end Lamarr Houston, and left tackle Jared Veldheer.
The electric Jacoby Ford could potentially earn a starting spot at wide-out, while another rookie, Bruce Campbell is being groomed as the right guard of the future.
With another strong draft, the Raiders could easily pickup the slack and win 12 games or more in 2011. All accounts would indicate that Al Davis was not calling all the shots in the 2010 draft, which was frankly, an answer to my prayers.
After all, the Raiders finished the 1999 season with a win over Kansas City and then followed that season by going 12-4. Okay, I can't count chickens before they hatch (or can I?). The simple idea however is that Raider Nation should resist the temptation of impatience and frustration.
If anything, the Raiders need to retain many of the key coordinators and assistants, but add new coaches to key areas as well.
Rather than change the head coach, the Raiders should add new position coaches or assistants to those coaches. I think we could nitpick about how good each position has been, but we've certainly seen dramatic improvement from the offensive line and defensive backs, so I wouldn't change either one.
The glaring weakness has been the development of the wide receivers.
Whether the development of Darrius Heyward-Bey is simply his own doing is one thing, but at the same time, the wide receivers made many mistakes that should have been coached out.
I know, I know.
Rookie Jacoby Ford could be one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Looking at the numbers, his rookie year is reminiscent of the rookie year of Raiders great Tim Brown. My nickname for Ford is, "Tiny Tim."
On that note, I have been talking about how much I would like to see Tim Brown return to the Raiders as a position coach, or merely as an assistant to current wideouts coach, Sanjay Lal, whose experience is mostly at the college level and the now defunct NFL Europe.
Either that, or the Raiders should sign a veteran wideout (say, Donald Driver) that can help develop the raw group of wideouts.
The issues that stood out this season, yes, were decisions by Coach Cable. Last minute tinkering in the pre-season and redundancy at positions clearly added up.
Cable should not have experimented with rookie Jared Veldheer at center, who in my opinion, was the true culprit in the loss to Tennessee and not quarterback Jason Campbell.
And that wasn't Veldheer's fault either, because he had minimal experience at center and his massive size put him out of place as a center. With that said, Veldheer seems to have settled in at left-tackle..
Cable should have committed to Campbell rather than tinker with Bruce Gradkowski as the starter. I won't speculate on his motivations, but the bottom line is that, Campbell is the better option at quarterback.
For one, Campbell takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin.' Gradkowski seems to get hurt anytime there's a strong gust of wind. I should add that, if and only if, the Eagles don't retain Michael Vick that the Raiders should pursue him.
Otherwise, the best option is to stick with Campbell.
The Raiders were thin at positions of weakness and redundant at positions of strength.
The Raiders should have released halfback Michael Bennett during the course of the season and added a full-time blocker such as Manase Tonga, in order to free-up fullback Marcel Reece to be a bigger factor in the running and passing game, especially in the red-zone.
He's a good blocker, no question.
But it didn't make sense for the Raiders to retain four halfbacks when they have two of the best at the top in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
The best way to ensure the success of the running game is not with a good backup, it's with someone that can protect him on the field. They could have added another blocker to the mix, which was clearly needed throughout the season, as the Raiders would often use an eligible tackle.
I also did not understand the need to retain linebacker Sam Williams and linebacker Bruce Davis, rather than add a third tight end or another defensive end as a situational rusher.
It was only after the Raiders placed Trevor Scott on injured reserve that the Raiders signed Jarvis Moss. On that note, Scott should not have been the opening day starter at defensive end, because Matt Shaughnessy was clearly the better player.
If anything, Cable snubbed Shaughnessy from the ProBowl because of that decision. I wanted to vote for Shaughnessy but his name did not appear on the ballot.
The Raiders also did not add a backup to center, Samson Satele. Satele seemed to settle in during the course of the season, once guard Robert Gallery returned from injury and Veldheer starting at left tackle. Either way, the lack of an experienced backup made little sense.
Nevertheless, I think Cable can learn from mistakes and I see no imperative reason for the Raiders should throw him under the bus, because the Raiders are clearly in the right direction, despite the miscues.
Here's the BUT.
The only choices for head coach that I like are Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh, and Russ Grimm. Otherwise, I wouldn't take the chance with a different coach that would be unfamiliar with the coaching staff.
I understand that we are all tired of waiting. I hope that good things come to those who wait.
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