Monday, December 28, 2009

Oakland Raiders – Was 2009, a repeat performance or a variation of a ‘bad’ theme?

On the last Monday of 2009 the Oakland Raiders find themselves with double-digit losses for the seventh year in a row. Another difficult year for a Raider's fan to have to deal with or should I say suffer through.

The 2009 draft was one that brought two athletes to the team as 1st (Darrius Heyword-Bey) & 2nd round (Mike Mitchell) picks, but it is unclear if or when these athletes can develop into productive football players. The teams draft produced a promising DE selected in the 3rd round (Matt Shaughnessy).

A promising WR selected in the 4th round (Louis Murphy). Another promising DE/DT was signed as an undrafted free agent (Desmond Bryant). Once again the Raiders look better drafting in reverse and this trend needs to stop.

A team's 1st & 2nd round picks should be solid and make an immediate impact on the team. Whereas a team's picks in rounds three - seven should build the team. However, what should happen always boils down to whom Al Davis wants.

I have a lot of respect for Al Davis and for what he has been able to accomplish over the years. I'm also in agreement with and believe that it is time for him to give way to someone else running the football operations and have stated the same things for years.

Another year of surprisingly beating teams that the Raiders had no business beating and losing to teams that the silver and black should beat. A change was finally made at quarterback, but as much as I agreed with the decision it makes me wonder if things could have been different if the decision was made in week seven as opposed to week 11.

Going into 2010 it is clear to me that Oakland needs to change JaMarcus Russell's position or cut him because they have their quarterback in Bruce Gradkowski. Russell needs to out-work everyone, do a complete 180° turnaround and come back looking like a completely different player for me to consider him a potential member of the 2010 53-man roster.

Another thought has me wondering how dramatically different the win-loss record would change if the Raiders could stop the run. The team is allowing 150 rushing yards and 24 points per game for the seventh straight year. This has the silver and black ranked 29th in the league at stopping the run. Is it a coincidence that six of the teams that rank in the top ten against the run use a 3-4 front as their base defense?

I know what several people will attempt to inform me that the Raiders don't run a 3-4 defense nor have the personnel to effectively run the scheme. However, what every Raider fan knows that it is time for a change. Dramatic changes such as a new scheme on both sides of the ball, new personnel, better play calling and a completely different focus.

A switch back to the 3-4 defense, the same defense the Raiders used and while winning Super Bowl XVIII in 1983, will probably never happen. However, switching to a multiple front defense one that uses a base 4-3 front, but depending on the opposition and down and distance switching out of the 4-3 front and into either a 3-4 versus the pass or a Bear 46 to finally stop the run.

This will also ensure that the silver and black defense won't be so predictable.
Change is very slow for the Oakland Raiders, but the Raiders blitzed more as well as had more success with it in 2009 than in previous years. It might not be the massive changes I want to see, but it is a start.

Hopefully there is more change to come in 2010; I’m talking about change for the better. I can't tell you today if Tom Cable keeps his job as the head coach or not. My feeling is that he remains in place despite all of the top tier coaching talent available.

If Al Davis spoke with some of the talent available, relinquished control and told them it was their show to run and that he wouldn't interfere. Put it in the contract and provide them three years to clean up his mess that might suffice.

If some of these changes were put in place instead of discussing how great Janikowski’s 61 yard field goal was or how the officials did the Raiders again (Not Surprising or worth discussing) with some changes we could be discussing the best season the Raiders have had in a decade. The ball is always in Al Davis court and it is up to him to do the right thing for the future of the franchise.