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Oakland Raiders: A Formula For Getting Back On The Winning Track

Mihir Bhagat@mihirbhagatSenior Analyst IIIMarch 30, 2010

The once-successful Raiders franchise has been on a dismal downturn for the past seven seasons, accumulating a record of 29-83 (.259). For a while now, they have been considered a laughing stock in the NFL, and have been gradually losing their fan base.

You can’t really blame them though; there hasn’t been much to cheer about in Oakland recently. The organization continues to make poor decisions, both, on the field and in the front office, and has shown scarce signs of improvement.

However, I am confident that they can turn things around and get headed in the right direction if they can fix a few core elements to the way things are run in Oakland.

First off, I can’t stress enough on how important it is to have a team identity. Currently, many NFL fans simply recognize the Raiders as a team run by a crazy owner that severely lacks leadership, continuity, and common sense.

In my mind, the Raiders should generate a run-heavy offense, and rely on their defense to keep them close in ball games.

Yes, the league has been a passing-dominant one for a while now. With an inconsistent QB and an unreliable receiving core, though, expecting to have success in the air is unrealistic.

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The Raiders have had a rather good ground game in recent history. Despite faltering the past season, I believe they can rejuvenate their rushing attack that ranked sixth in the NFL during the ’07 campaign.  

The team has invested high draft picks in the explosive Darren McFadden and bruising Michael Bush. Together, the two can create a dynamic duo much like the Tennesee Titans’ smash and dash combination.

While the team doesn’t have a proved lead tailback, many teams don’t, and are starting to use an effective one-two punch, which is something the Raiders should definitely implement.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders have never had a great overall unit. Their pass defense has steadily improved, although their run defense remains porous. The unit has some pieces in place and by adding a couple more big-time playmakers and installing discipline, the puzzle could soon be complete.

It would be a wise decision to focus on solidifying their defense because as the team witnessed first-hand in their embarrassing Super Bowl XXXVII loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that defense wins championships.

Another reason the Raiders have struggled is due to the fact that they have made some flat-out ridiculous and ill-advised moves in the NFL Draft. In order to be successful, it is critical to draft cornerstones who can anchor your starting lineup for the next ten years with those number one draft picks. In the nicest way I can put it, the Raiders have failed to do so.

The team has had twelv e first round draft picks in the last decade. Yet, other than kicker Janikowski, and CB Asomogha, the remaining picks have been major disappointments.

The Raiders have a chance to redeem themselves in the upcoming 2010 NFL draft next month. With the eighth overall selection, they will have several options to choose from.

With LT probably being the team’s most pressing draft need, I suggest that they go after a player like Bryan Bulaga, if he’s available. If not, they should go after the best player available and upgrade the lackluster roster that has more questions than answers.

Many people, including myself, have Maryland OT, Bruce Campbell mocked to the Raiders at that selection. Many fans, also including me, believe that he’s an extremely overrated player who doesn’t belong in the Top 10. Of course, since he’s a workout warrior who ran an impressive 4.85 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine, Al Davis will most likely apply his flawed drafting strategy, once again, and draft the athlete.

Finally, rumors have been circulating throughout the league lately that the Raiders are the front-runners to execute a trade for Philadelphia Eagles 6-time Pro Bowl QB, Donovan McNabb. The asking price appears to be a second rounder, which, for a franchise QB with a solid 4-5 years of gas remaining in the tank, isn’t too expensive.

If the deal is made, I think it would be a brilliant move by the front office. I am beginning to have a feeling that the organization is beginning to realize that they’re unorthodox drafting methods are not working.

They traded their 2011 first round draft choice to the New England Patriots for aging DE, Richard Seymour. I know that many Raiders fans opposed the trade, but looking at the big picture, I would undoubtedly rather have Seymour for a few years than Darius Heyward-Bey for ten. Similarly, trading for McNabb will prove to have a much larger impact than last year’s second round draft pick, Michael Mitchell will.

The Raiders need an experienced, proved quarterback. They need a leader who will command respect, both on the field and in the locker room. They need someone they can look up to, and whom they can truly trust can put drive them on the road of success. McNabb is exactly the type of player who fits that bill.

Moreover, with Al Davis still having false high hopes that Jamarcus Russell’s incredible potential will some day develop into talent, this trade may be the best way to make his dreams come true.

McNabb was a great mentor for Vick last season and he would be great for Russell. Therefore, even if McNabb doesn’t resign long-term, the team could see dividends in the form of Russell’s progression, which would definitely be worth it.

The Raiders’ motto is Commitment To Excellence, and I strongly believe if they can make some significant changes in the overall culture of their organization, then I think they will be much closer to achieving their ultimate goal. It will obviously be an enormous mountain to climb, but of course, nothing is impossible.

However things pan out, even though I’m not a Raiders fan, I wish them the best of luck moving forward, because they are surely going to need it.

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