Now I'm back with more words of wisdom for the Silver and Black, but before I start, I have to get something off my chest.
First off: Try taking my advice for a change. I'll give you a pass for not listening to me about Norm Chow. Your loss, and who knows, Lane Kiffin may end up working out. Maybe he's got something that reminded Al Davis of the offensive spark he saw in a young Mike Shanahan. It's a stretch, but maybe.
So now, Raiders, you're on the cusp of making a huge decision: who to select with the number one pick in the draft. Whoever he is, he'll be the new face of the franchise, perhaps the start of a new "Just Win, Baby" era for the Silver and Black.
Most people expect you to take LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, and that wouldn't be such a bad choice. You'd be following in the footsteps of my favorite team, who took signal caller Alex Smith with the top pick in the 2005 draft to reignite their franchise.
But while Smith, like Russell, was considered a solid choice but by no means a sure thing, 2005 was a whole different can of worms. That draft had no consensus top pick, and was seemingly devoid of marquee prospects.
This year is different. And the difference is named Calvin Johnson.
1. Trade Randy Moss
Moss has been nothing but an underperforming distraction ever since he arrived in Oakland a few years ago. So pull the plug and get rid of him; make him someone else's problem. Finish up that rumored deal with Green Bay, do whatever it takes. Johnson will be the stud receiver you thought you had in Moss anyway. Besides, he's younger and faster, with a better work ethic and a smaller ego. Getting rid of Moss would be addition by subtraction, clearing the way for Johnson to be the man.
2. Sign David Carr
"Carr?," you ask. "Isn't he the bum who just got kicked to the curb by the lowly Houston Texans, arguably the only team in worse shape than Oakland is?" Yep, that's the one. Maybe he didn't work out with the Texans, but he does have talent, and as a certain Beezer McBeeze said, he wasn't too shabby of a quarterback in Houston when you really look at it. Paired with Johnson, Carr would give the Raiders not one but two number-one NFL draft picks in their backfield. Double your pleasure, double your fun. Plus, Oakland's bread and butter has always been rehabilitating retreads. Jim Plunkett, anyone?
3. Draft Calvin Johnson
Now you see the plan really take off. With Carr signed, the Raiders don't feel pressured to pick up a quarterback, and Lane Kiffin's coaching career isn't wholly defined by whether a young field general can develop fast enough. After all, it's hard to "Just Win, Baby" when your QB is "Just Learning the Plays." Carr gets a huge, uber-talented receiver to throw to, and a creative young coach to call the plays for him. Combined with their deceptively good defense led by coordinator Rob Ryan, the rejuvenated Raiders offense would have a chance to actually win some ball games.
Let's face it: As bad as you were last year, Raiders, things are looking up right now for you in the AFC West. The Chargers said goodbye to Marty-ball only to fall for Norv Turner's own personal brand of head-coaching ineptitude. The Chiefs are going into the second year of the Herm Edwards era, and seem intent on giving the starting quarterback job to career backup/2006 flash-in-the-pan Damon Huard. And the Broncos are hedging their bet on new QB Jay Cutler's ability to elevate himself and the team after a shaky rookie year (for the record, Cutler and the Broncos couldn't beat my Niners at the end of last season, when they needed a win to make the playoffs).
So there you have it, Raiders. The division may not be wide open, but it certainly isn't out of the question for you to contend. If, that is, you follow my advice. So stop thinking like the Oakland Raiders of 2003-2006, and start thinking like the new Raiders: the Raiders who are going to wake up in the morning, look themselves in the mirror, and face life like there's no tomorrow.
Which is saying a lot. After all, I am a Niners fan.