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Shining some light on The Raiders

November 8, 2011

To say the Raiders are in a slump might be an understatement. They’ve lost two in a row to division opponents. The head coach has made questionable decisions in the wake of Al Davis’ death, sparking rumors that he is taking his power too far. The new quarterback he sold a first and second round draft pick for has thrown 6 interceptions in two games. The defense remains inconsistent, breaking down in crucial moments of winnable contests. The Raiders again are a league leader in penalties and penalty yards. And it’s beginning to appear as though the head coach may be losing respect among some players in the locker room, as well as fans.

Things in Oakland aren’t looking up.

Despite the troubles and problems thus far, I still would like to bring to light a shade of optimism. I remember being 14 years old, and watching the Bill Callahan led Raiders lose four straight games after winning the first four in 2001. Bill Callahan had just taken over the team as head coach, inheriting what Jon Gruden had helped build as head coach the previous 4 years. The Raiders were 4-4, fans were disgruntled, the media criticized Callahan, and the team was about to be left for dead. The next game was against division opponent, the Denver Broncos on a Monday Night matchup on the road. I still clearly remember the feeling I had going into that game. It was like all hope had been lost and the team we had seen grow over the past 4 seasons had fallen apart.

Kind of sound familiar? Coach Jackson has taken over a team that some would say was built by Tom Cable. Again this season, we have watched the Raiders go from a fast start, to hitting some rough bumps in the road. Again, they find themselves heading into a division game, on the road at night, with a 4-4 record. The feeling I had after Sundays loss to Denver very much resembled that same feeling I felt 9 years ago. If we didn’t win that next game at night on the road, the season was over. Period.

That Monday Night in Denver, Rich Gannon went on to throw 3 touchdown passes leading to a complete domination of the Denver Broncos. Rod Woodson returned Brian Griese’s pass that game 98 yards for a touchdown. The win shot gunned the Raiders into a winning streak that would lead them into the playoffs, and eventually the Superbowl.

To be realistic, I realize that team had much more experience. They also had a top tier quarterback, tons of weapons on offense and a very offensively minded head coach. They also had an average defense, whose defensive coordinator was Chuck Bresnahan. Again, sound familiar?

I’m not classifying Carson Palmer with Rich Gannon yet, but I believe that this guy is a real quarterback. Despite the interceptions, I see a guy that can get the ball to receivers in a way we haven’t seen since Gannon. Offensively the Raiders have weapons everywhere. From running back, to wide receiver, to tight end, this team is stacked. The coaches just need to utilize them. Gannon got everybody the ball, it didn’t matter as long as they were open.

Hue Jackson has maybe been a little too zany with some of his play calling, but Raider fans must admit that we miss the creativity Callahan (and Gruden) brought to the table. Jacksons confident energy and no fear attitude are reminiscent of Gruden, but he needs to tone down a bit and focus more on managing the game. Experience plays into that. That being said, it is also crucial Darren McFadden get healthy. Charlie Garner was running back the Superbowl year and was once described as “instant offense”. McFadden is our “instant offense”.

Once again Chuck Bresnahan is the defensive coordinator, leading a defense that has lacked consistency. The Raider defense of 2002 definitely looked better than this bunch, but was not an overpowering group by any means. If this defense can get some stability and keep the score within reason, the offense should be able to do enough to finish the job.

My point is, this division is up for grabs and anything can happen in the NFL once it gets to the playoffs.

Perhaps my comparison is a bit of a stretch, but regardless I will be in Plaza 21 behind the eastern endzone at Qualcomm Stadium this Thursday night. It will be seen if the Raiders can perhaps once again repeat history. But you can bet if they do, I will surely be chanting on my way out of the stadium. Raaaaiiiderrrs!

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