Oakland Raiders: A Franchise On The Verg Of Greatness Or Self Destruction?
Holla At Me RAIDER NATION!
This article is straight up R.A.I.D.E.R.S.!
With this being the new year (and all..) & the season winding down (with things having gone pretty much the way I said they would) I thought now might be a good time for me to do my first slide show; However, when I went to check on the final draft the margins were crazy I don't know why , or how to fix it so... I had to go back to old reliable: The Standard Article (sorry Nation no excitement for you...lol) to share some of my thoughts on "our" future; However before we look ahead....
I know that there are some within "The Nation" who are disappointed that The Raiders did not make the playoffs this season. Brothers and Sisters let us not forget the true purpose of the playoffs; The playoffs are designed to separate the weak from the strong.
The playoffs are like the movie "Highlander": The basic premise is that you have immortals battle (one on one) with the victor separating the losers head from his body; These battles continue until only ONE immortal remains (sound kinda like the playoffs?).
This Raider team was NOT ready to be "the LAST immortal remaining". Furthermore, in my view us getting into the playoffs and then going out in the first round is of no real benefit to the team; This is especially true if we get "blown out" playing in someone elses house!
Did you really want to see this team on the road against the likes of The Ravens, The Patriots, or The Steelers in the playoffs?!? No way do we win any of those games! Not this season, sorry brothers and sisters those are just the facts.
How Will The Raider's Do Next Season?
Don't give me any of that "You've got to be in it to win it." or "On any given Sunday." crap. The last thing The Raiders needed to dwell on this off season was a blow out loss in the first round of the playoffs! This team is much better off concentrating on the positives of WINNING more games then... I don't what?!?...'02??? (as well as other concerns... but well get into that later)
Speaking of winning, if The Raiders wish to continue to do so there are certain moves (I feel) that the team is going to need to make, so let's begin the (non slide) show.....
RAIDERS "CUT" CABLE
I, like many in The Nation did not want Al to fire Tom Cable (right now). I was hoping that Al would give Tom a two year deal (with an option for a third), for two reasons: First, this way Cable would not have to come into the season with the team knowing that their playing under him in another "contract year" (even though we all know that he would be, and has been coaching on a year to year basis). Second, and mainly because I wanted Hue Jackson to have more time to work directly with Jason Campbell & not have to deal with all the other responsibilities that come along with being a head coach; Moreover, I would like to have had a chance to see more of what Jackson's plans are for our team, before Al handed another guy his first head coaching job.
I understand... some of us weren't too fond of Mr. Cable: The O-line issues, The q.b. flip/flops, his not being an X & O type of guy, the fact that he really does look a lot like Curly of:The Three Stooges; People had their reasons for disliking Cable.
I understand, and I know that Al wasn't too happy with some of the decisions that were made by Cable; The way I view it no owner is going to be "happy" with every decision made by their coach. What an owner needs to do is trust in the decisions made by the man that he (the owner) hired to run the team. Al knew that this was Cable's first head coaching job; Al had to know that mistakes would be made, and that the two men would not always see "eye to eye" on every aspect of the team. I personally feel that Cable was learning from his mistakes, and that he was "growing" more comfortable (if that's possible) with the "intangibles" of being a head coach for the Oakland Raiders (which is like no coaching job in the league). Moreover, I like the fact that Cable would "stand up" to Al, this after all is Raider Nation and I don't want "my" head coach to be some sort of pinita! The coach needs to have some "balls" and be able to "go to bat" for his players against the refs (and sometimes against the owner as well). With that being said, again I know that Al wasn't too happy with some of the decision Cable made, but I do think that Cable was doing a good job and that at this time it would have been good for the team (overall) if Cable stayed.
Now with this latest head coaching position change who knows how the current players on the roster are going to feel? Instead of preparing for our "playoff run season" us, and the players will have to spend time "breaking in" a new head coach (and all that entails).
My feeling was that with the team needing fewer and fewer "pieces to the puzzle" I didn't see us "breaking in" a new head coach as a "necessary" move at this point; However, due to the fact that I wasn't a "fly on the wall" when Cable and Al had meetings I can only base my view of the situation by viewing the performance of the team on the field; From what I saw the players (for the most part) that Al (and Cable) have drafted have done a good job and (maybe more importantly) they had played hard for their coach (am I wrong?).
Did Al fire Cable Too Soon?
Al (as we all know) has an unyielding passion (which sometimes blinds him) to restore The Raiders to greatness; This "passion", I believed was something that Cable also had; Moreover, I believe that Al & Cable shared a similar "intensity"; This (I felt) was shown when Cable who, to his credit was unafraid to "speak his mind", or make a "position change" that Al may, or may not have agreed with; As he did by not playing J-Bust (good move by Cable) and as he did by benching Jason Campbell (not such a good move by Cable). Still, good or bad I felt that Cable was trying to do not only what was in the best interest of him keeping his job but, what was in the best interest for the team to win games. Strangely enough I thought that the two (Al & Cable) "worked" well together and that they were both focused on the same goal: WINNING; Using this as my base, I was hoping that Al would not sever his relationship with Cable this soon. I'm sure that many (if not all) of the players were hoping the same thing.
Cable not only had a good "working" relationship with Al what I thought would work even more in his favor (if that's possible) is the fact that the players really did have an affinity for Tom Cable. These are the men that are on the battlefield, as we watch from the comfort of The Black Hole or our favorite watering hole. It is vital to the success of the team that the players be willing to "run thru walls" for their head coach. This is only going to happen when and if the players have faith, and are happy playing for their head coach.
I believe that one of the main problems was the fact that we live in a society that likes to "label" people. Tom Cable, quite frankly was hard to label (unlike Hue Jackson). You couldn't say that he's (Cable) an "offensive or defensive specialists like some coaches. You also couldn't really say that Cables' a great "play caller" or "game day manager" type of head coach. However, my question is why does he need to be? Isn't that what the COACHING STAFF is for? (these other guys get paid too - so put them to work!!). I may not have known what to "label" Tom Cable (that rhymes.. lol) however I do know this: The team improved each year he'd been coach, and the players liked and wanted to play for him (that hasn't always been the case when it comes to guys who have been our head coach).
Although I didn't know if Cable was the man to lead this team to a Superbowl (not that were ready for one at this point) There was no evidence that suggested The Raider players "quit" or were not playing hard for Cable. Although Cable made some moves that went against Al wishes, The man (Al) is a maverick, so he should have admired Cable (to a certain extent) for having the "balls" to go against him. I didn't really see any evidence to suggest that Cables relationship with Al was anything but amicable (I'm starting to sound like a lawyer instead of Raider right now... lol) Therefore, I didn't see a real reason to fire Tom Cable, moreover we (Al) had just gotten the man some much needed help.
RAIDERS CHANGE THEIR "HUE"
One of the main problems Cable had at the outset was that he not only had to manage being a head coach (for the first time) he (Cable) had to deal with overseeing the offense, the play calling, special teams, the "in game" management, ect, ect. As we know all this "responsiblity" put just too much pressure on Cable. Enter Hue Jackson.
However with Cable now out as head coach, and Jackson in as the new coach I can't help but wonder what the future holds.This was only his (Jackson's) first year as our offensive coordinator, and I would have liked to see him continue to "prove himself" in this position for another season (or two) and have the offense prove that it can be productive, consistently before we turned over the head coaching position to him. However, this offense has the potential to be very, very special. I can only hope that Jackson will continue what he has started, and develop even more devious ways of using our superior offensive weapons to exploit the weaknesses of our foes.
This is a league of "match-ups" (we all know this!) It's the job of the offense (and their coordinators) to look for ways to get their "playmakers" on weaker defenders. Now that "we" have fired Tom Cable and have moved Hue Jackson to head coach will he (Hue) be in the same position Cable was when he (Cable) took the job in the first place? Moreover, will "we" The Raider Nation be in the same place we were?: Stuck dealing with a guy who is overwhelmed with all the details of being a first time head coach!! (and WE ALL remember those days... don't we?).
Brothers and sisters the last thing "we" need is to take two steps back to move one step ahead. Cable had been coach for a few season, so he had those "first time head coach" issues some what under control. Will Hue Jackson be able to concentrate of our offense the same way he was able to when he was just a coordinator? The last thing we need our "first time" head coach worrying about is the special teams, or travel plans for road games!! Hue Jackson (I believe) best serves our interests by continuing to devise ways of get "our play makers" the ball!!
For example: McFadden had a good year (can't say he didn't); However, "we" have two dominate running backs; I can't help but feel that Jackson (if he would have stayed just a coordinator) would have found many more ways of get Mike Bush more involved on a regular basis (look at the last game Bush had against The Chiefs).
This is the closest we will ever get to having a Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen situation. We were very luck that (due to an injury in college) Mike Bush fell into our hands when we drafted him! The truth is Bush could start for any number of teams (just imagine him in the backfield with Tom Brady for example). The Raiders having more of a "1-2 punch" in their use of Bush and McFadden (I believe) will put just too much pressure on the opposing defensive lines strength, depth, and stamina; Not to mention what Hue could possible devise using our new found weapon at full back Marcel Reece!
Is Hue Jackson The Right Man For The Job?
The Raiders have the potential for both Bush and McFadden to reach the thousand yard mark and that opportunity should not (and I hope won't) be ignored. However, with Hue moved to the head coaching position is he now going to look to hire his own offensive coordinator? Will Hue have time to work on running plays?, More importantly will he have time to continue to work on the development of Jason Campbell?
One thing every quarterback can use is a dominate run game; Another thing he can use is a coordinator there who cares, and is invested in his development. With Jason Campbell (finally) entrenched as quarterback it would have been good if Hue had more time to continue what he started with Campbell. We all know this is a quarterback driven league and that this team is really only going to go as far as he (the quarterback) can take them. Therefore, it's vital that he (Campbell) have a solid "support system" developed around him. This support system should not only includes a strong running game but it should also include having Hue Jackson coordinating this offense.
Our offensive production was near the bottom of the league before Jackson came in and took over (possibly another "nail" in the Cable coffin); After only one season we were in the top 10. Now, was this just a "one hit wonder" or a harbinger of things to come? (I believe that it was a "taste" of what our team is capable of doing.)
This is just a small sample of why (I feel) it's essential to keep Hue Jackson coordinating, and the probable benefits of such a move. Can you imagine it?!? Watching "our" team make fools of the opposing defenses!! Not only will they not know what hit them, they won't even be able to say who it was that hit them!! However, with this latest "Cable cut" one can only hope (and pray) that we can repeat this seasons production.
I know you're wondering why I have a picture of Tim Brown posted; The truth is I didn't want to put up a picture of any of the guys we have playing receiver (except for Ford, and he's a rookie.. I need to see him perform when people are expecting it.. then we'll see just how "nice" this kid is). I didn't want to post any of their pictures because I don't believe that any of these guys is (not that they can't be) a "solid" #1.
Lets look at the depth chart for a moment and ask yourself:
WHO Is Worthy Of Taking Timmy's Spot?
L. Murphy- I like this guy no doubt about it. He's about 6'1 or 6'2, around 200 pounds so he's got "the body" however, I don't see him as my "go to guy"; I'm not sure Murphy can handle the "pressure" that comes with the job; Too many times I've seen him drop passes at key moments and you can't have your #1 guy dropping passes at critical moments! I'd say he's a solid # 2 receiver. I have no problem with "Dirty Murphy" being a major part of the offense, and I do see him "making plays". I just don't picture him as a "Tim Brown Replacement", I'd love for the team to have a better option with the game on the line.
C. Schilens - Another guy that I like (maybe even more than Murphy) However, at 6'4 225 pounds I can't understand why Chaz is ALWAYS HURT!! you can't be a teams number one, "go to" guy when YOU'RE NOT EVEN ON THE FIELD MOST OF THE TIME!! He's got one last year (as far as I'm concerned) to prove that we aren't wasting a roster spot on him. He needs to play at least 12-14 games next season! (and play very well!) or we need to be done with him! No way at this point can I say he's Jason's go to guy at wide out.
A #1 Wide Receiver is...
J. Higgins - Come on man! - we all know this is not the #1 guy. (#3 at best)
D. Heyward-Bey - Potential but as we know he's still a "work in progress" Not the #1 (right now)
J.Ford - Love this kid, but let's be honest he wasn't supposed to come in and have the "impact" in the passing game that he did. We knew about Ford's punt/kick return ability and the speed; What we did not know (at least I didn't) was that he had such good hands! Need to see him doing this for another season before I'm sold on him as a "go to" guy in the mode of say a Wes Welker.
Now who on this list is "worthy" of replacing Tim Brown? (answer: No One)
There in lies the problem. While "our" team does, and should have a run first mentality we need to work on finding more of a balance between the run and passing games. The good teams (and the great ones) find ways to make you "one dimensional". Teams are going to "stack the box" and dare Jason to find "someone" to throw the ball to (this person is going to need to CATCH THE BALL in order for positive things to happen for the O). It's great to have the "threat" of a passing game & the deep ball however, for this team to go where we want to go it's going to need to do more then threaten. It's going to need to be able to "deliver".
It is Imperative that we find a receiver that Jason can go to in times of trouble (other than Z. Mill he's our T.E. not our go to wide-receiver)
Perhaps one of these guys will emerge as our #1 receiver, However, I don't want to place my faith in the hope that one of these guys is going to "develop" during this off season. The team needs (as far as I'm concerned) to go out and get a veteran! (can "we" get at least ONE guy at receiver that's dependable!! i.e. - a Tim Brown for the new millennium!!). We need find a guy who can do for the receiving corp what Seymour has done for the defensive line. If we get a true, "legit", established #1 wide out this will only help the entire offense.
Having a "legit" #1 will not only help out our quarterback, it will also help the other wide outs on the team. These guys could use "someone" to mentor them, they could also deal without the pressure of being "The Man". With a receiver to occupy their #1 defensive back (and maybe a safety) the coverage on guys like Murphy, Bey, and Ford should be even easier for them to beat! The more dangerous our passing game is the better it is for our run game!! Which benefits the overall performance of the offense.
However, now with this coaching "issue" who knows what's "on the agenda".
WHAT'S GOING TO BE DONE ABOUT THE OFFENSIVE LINE ?
I know, I know, another "old school" photo. Again, I didn't want to put up a picture of our current roster; Why? Simple, it's my slide show and I can do what I want.... Told you this article was straight up R.A.I.D.E.R.S.
When I thought about our offensive line I couldn't help but to think about the Patriots (let me explain).
When people talk about the Patriots they like to talk (usually) about Tom Brady. Nobody knows (or really cares... outside of N.E.) the names of the people who are catching his passes. Nobody knows (or really cares... outside of N.E.) the names of the people who run the ball for him; Lastly, and most importantly, nobody knows the names of the men who are facilitating all of this: There offensive linemen!
I thought about it.. I'm sure (as I type this) that if someone was to give me a name I'd know it - but just sitting here at my keyboard... I'm drawing a blank. I know the most important thing I need to know about these guys...
Brothers and sisters the game, as they like to say is won "in the trenches". The Patriots have gotten great play out of their offensive linemen; This has to be a HUGE part of the reason why the team has been so successful. I know that "these" guys (unlike our guys) not only run block, they pass block (without getting called for holding); They don't get called for false starts, and their basically everything that you want in your teams offensive line: A group of unknown but greatly appreciated & talented men.
The Raiders however, have the opposite situation; We have some well known garbage mixed in with some prospective talent. The play (or lack there of ) of the offensive line could very well be the reason that Cable is no longer head coach. It will undoubtedly be a "project" for Jackson, and is critical to the future success of the team!
What Grade Do You Give The O-Line?
Let's take a (quick) look at this unit.
Samson Satele - Our perfect example of "well known garbage". We got this guy from the fish (as we know) and right now I say we need to THROW HIM BACK!!! This guy is a joke, he should be named Delilah not Samson. He has got to be replaced at center (end of story); He just doesn't have the size (or strength) to deal with the guys he's facing at nose guard.
Cooper Carlisle - Can he play right guard? (answer: not very well) This is also someone that I believe needs to NOT be a starter (and maybe NOT on the team); Cooper was a favorite of Tom Cable and could be one of the guys that got Cable fired! Moving on from Cooper is only for the betterment of the offense. Carlisle has a good season when Cable got here but that was 2 or 3 years ago. This is not a "what have you done for me" league; This is a "what can you DO for me" league.
Langston Walker - Should be given his walking papers! I don't know why we ever bought this dude back to Oakland! I personally believe that he's done in the league and quite frankly I don't want to write anymore about him. One word, three letters: B.U.M.
Mario Henderson - The man is Terrible! There is no need to bring this guy back as a starter either! We got Barnes to "challenge" him for the position thinking that some competition might improve his play but the simple fact is that he needs to be replaced by Barnes.
Who Is The Best O-Linemen?
Khalif Barnes - (left tackle)This is a guy that we got from the Jags to play left tackle for us, and that's what we need to let him do! I know that we were doing some experimenting with him on the right side because he's a good athlete however, we need to let him play the position that comes more "natural" to him and sit (or trade.. if someone will take him that is) Henderson.
Robert Gallery - (left guard) Could very well be the cause of our hesitance to draft linemen early; When this kid was picked #2 over all EVERYONE (the "talking heads") said he was a "can't miss pick" at tackle; Well as we know, things didn't go exactly according to plan; Point blank we all know that he is NEVER going to be a tackle (which is why I have him playing guard) I still hope (and have a bit of belief) that he can still be a productive player for our team however he must find a way to stay injury free.
Jared Valdheer - (center) This kid is a rookie but I feel that he's got a good future. What we need to do is put him back at the center position (where he was playing at the start of the season); He's the real "samson" standing about 6'8 & weighing in at about 320, he's smart, big, and strong enough to give the defenders on the nose a fight (unlike "Delilah Satele). He could help restore pride to the Raiders position of center and follow in the footsteps of legends like: Otto, Dalby, Mosebar and Robbins.
Bruce Campbell - (right tackle) Also a rookie, that I feel could have a very bright future. This kid is blessed with natural "raw" talent; He's an imposing combination of size, speed, and power. Campbell is about 6'6 weighs about 315-320 and ran a 4.85 in the 40. Once Bruce has some time to perfect his game (all he needs is some coaching) he could be an anchor on our line for a long time to come.
What's The First Position The Raiders should Draft for?
Daniel Loper - (right guard) - Has been in the league for at least 5 years now (so he's no rookie); After playing in Detroit I get the feeling that he's knows how to handle adversity. He should be able to come in here and fit in perfectly with The Raiders, and at 6'6 320 he should fit right in with the rest of the guys I've giving spots to.
The offensive line (in my view) is the unit with the most problems. Having a solid, productive, offensive line (I believe) is the only thing stopping The Raiders from being a consistent playoff team; This unit has to be the focus for "our" new head coach and upcoming draft.
Raider from birth...
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