The Oakland Raiders are one of the most storied franchises in professional football history. Whether it is Black Hole, the Greatness Of The Raiders, or, Just Win Baby. For over five decades the Oakland Raiders have given swagger to professional football.
This swagger has been lost for over a decade as the Raiders have languished at the bottom of the National Football League. The reasons for this are numerous. Poor draft choices and bad financial management have relegated a once proud franchise to the dust heap of professional football.
After the death Al Davis Reggie McKenzie was given the responsibility of restoring a once dominant franchise. The problems that McKenzie faced were threefold. He had no money, he had no players, and he had no draft picks.
Having no room under the salary cap meant that the Raiders could not fully participate in free agency. For the last two years the Raiders have gone about dumping old contracts, and, unproductive players in an attempt to give themselves some financial breathing room. Gone are the scholarships of the old days. Players are no longer allowed to hang around and collect a paycheck because of potential, or, "measurables".
Under the financial restrictions of the last three years Reggie McKenzie has tried to hobble together a football team using baling wire and bubblegum. He would dump bad salary here, and, add an inexpensive player there, trying to put together a roster that he hoped would be able compete. Although his efforts have been noble over the last two seasons the Raiders have accumulated a record of 8-24.
With a paper thin roster the Raiders gave a valiant effort over the last two years only to see the roster depleted through injuries as each season wore on. Players that were counted on to produce either simply failed or ended up on the injured reserve.
This is the third year of the new regime and their no more excuses. This off-season the Raiders had more salary-cap room than any other team in National Football League. The team also had the majority of their draft picks going into in the 2014 NFL draft. After the dust and settled, the Raiders were able to select eight players in the 2014 draft. Two of their top three selections have been penciled into either starting positions, or to be heavily counted on for playing time. The second round pick Derek Carr the quarterback out of Fresno State is expected to sit and learn behind newly acquired Matt Schaub. Even if Schaub falters the Raiders can still fall back on the quarterback that ended the season behind center last year Matt McGloin. In a perfect world Derek Carr will not see the field in the regular season until 2016.
In free agency the Raiders were very active rebuilding a defense which is in dire need of help. With the additions of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith and a host of others, the Raiders hope build a defense that can be formidable this season.
Success In 2014
The success of 2014 Oakland Raiders is going to depend on three things. First of all, and, most important the team is going to stay healthy. In 2013 the Raiders did not have the services of their first and second round draft picks for the majority of the season. Menelik Watson and DJ Hayden both lost significant time because of injury. Even though the roster has been reinforced with NFL caliber veterans it is paramount that this team stays healthy. Injuries can damage any team's chances of success in the National Football League, but, for the Raiders if the injury bug hits it could be a death knell.
The second thing the Raiders are going to need in order to succeed, is successful play at the quarterback position. Over the last decade the Raiders are tried in vain to find the right man to pilot and lead their team on the field. Reggie McKenzie has tried his best to fill this position. His first attempt with was Matt Flynn. Reggie hoped that he could bring a player that he knew and trusted in Flynn that he could be a stopgap at the position until a franchise quarterback could be found. As we all know this did not happen to work out. During the 2013 McKenzie wanted to select Matt Barkley out of USC. This plan was altered when the Philadelphia Eagles jumped in front of the Raiders to select Barkley in the fourth round. The Raiders backup plan turned out to be Tyler Wilson the quarterback out of Arkansas. Unfortunately Wilson had a difficult time picking up the offense and spent most of the year on the taxi squad until the Tennessee Titans needed a backup near the end of the season and decided that Wilson would be their best option. Over the last three years Terrelle Pryor, Al Davis' last player selection before his passing in 2011 had been nursed along in hopes that at some time his understanding of the game would mature to the point of matching his physical skills. The Raiders patience ran out this off-season and Pryor was traded to the Seattle Seahawks for seventh round pick.
Many people consider Matt Schaub to be yet another attempt by the Raiders at dumpster diving in order to find a viable option at the quarterback position. Many people consider Shaub to be a lost cause after a horrific 2013. Only time will tell if Schaub will return to a Pro bowl form or he will have a repeat of his 2013 disaster.
The last factor that will determine the success or failure of the Oakland Raiders in 2014 will be coaching. With the lack of talent that the Raiders have put on the field over the last three years it has been almost impossible to determine if Dennis Allen is a capable head-coach the National Football League, or, if he is a coordinator who has been promoted to quickly.
Three years ago Greg Knapp was brought in to be the offense of coordinator but that experiment failed after one season. Greg Olson is now manning the helm as the Raiders offense coordinator. Olsen had some success with the Jacksonville Jaguars a few years back but it remains to be seen if he can produce success in Oakland.
Defensively the Raiders are under the command of Jason Tarver who gain a reputation as a creative and innovative football mind with the San Francisco 49ers and the Stanford Cardinal. Now, with a defense stocked with veteran ballplayers we will see if Tarver's creative mind can develop the Raiders defense into something that will have to be reckoned with in 2014.
After over a decade of being chained financially with limited salary-cap space, futility at the quarterback position, and, a paper thin roster, it is time for the Oakland Raiders to emerge from the darkness. There are no more excuses. The roster through free agency has stocked been stocked with NFL caliber talent. The draft has harvested at least two potential impact players in Khalil Mack and Gabe Jackson (Yes a guard can be an impact player). A potential franchise quarterback has been acquired in Derek Carr.
It is time to find out if Dennis Allen and his staff is up to the challenge.
The road to glory will not be an easy one for the Raiders but achieving greatness has never been for the weak of heart.