Tuesday, January 1, 2008

"This Isn't Going to Happen Again"

There's a good joke that I'm getting tired of telling and hearing:

Now that the games are out of the way the real Raiders season can begin.

Unfortunately, in recent years the best that has been said about the offseason in Alameda is, "At least the Raiders are trying." As an eternally optimistic Raider fan, as usual I'm excited. But this year's excitement has a more positive tone. Last year I was excited that we might have the opportunity to watch Raider games beyond the first quarter in 2007. This year, Kiffin has this thing headed in the right direction, and we have the following things to anticipate:
  • A new defensive system - I enjoyed Rob Ryan and he provided a huge bright spot in a dismal 2006, but his defense failed its test this year and I can't imagine him sticking around. (I keep refreshing my Raider news sites but haven't yet seen an announcement). Is he a scapegoat for a 4-12 season? Hardly. Kiffin built the 2007 team with a conservative but relatively productive offense that would rely on the defense. While I don't have the stats in front of me, the Raiders watched their defense give up many fourth-quarter leads. In other words, the offense kept its part of the bargain. Blame injuries? Interestingly, the offense kept putting up 100-yard rushers after Jordan and then Fargas went down. The obvious intrigue here will be whether Monte and his zone defense will come to make it a family affair. In any case, Lane should have an inside track on talented defensive minds with his father's advice.
  • Defensive talent built around a returning core - It's not all bad on the defensive side. While they won't bring back 11 starters like this year, the new defensive coordinator will have a core upon which to build. Kiffin appears committed to re-signing Asomugha, which is critical. Thomas Howard took a step towards stardom this year. Kirk Morrison, while remaining a bit of an unknown quantity in the running game, is a jersey-worthy stud. Michael Huff will get the Gallery treatment and will be put in a position to shine. Burgess will be back to get after the passer. Tommy Kelly is a priority re-signing. And Jay Richardson showed great promise for a 5th round pick.
  • "Big names" shown the door - Not always fun, but given the history of losing it will be refreshing to see some real change. LaMont Jordan must already have his house on the market. After watching him run directly into tacklers arms at Lambeau I won't be leading the campaign to bring him back. Sapp appears to have retired (maybe he'll wait to talk to Monte?). In the past I disliked Sapp to a significant degree, but even with his Jacksonville meltdown he's been a pretty good Raider. Sunday was a fitting end, as he played an inspired game. Jerry Porter is opting out of his contract. Wouldn't mind seeing him back but he's not really a #1 guy, and no matter what he says he isn't a real deep threat. Stu Schweigart...sorry, Stu. Love your attitude but the writing's on the wall. A free safety has to tackle. Terdell Sands? The biggest - in more ways than one - signing of last offseason may have lost his job after a pathetic season. This one will depend on two things: 1 - cap ramifications, 2 - will the new defensive coordinator pull a Tom Cable and decide that the scheme and coaching rendered a talented guy ineffective?
  • Active free agency - While the 49ers took this approach last year and got worse, the Raiders have a lot more experience in free agency and have generally done a reasonable job with signings such as Burgess, Sapp, Griffith, Newberry, and maybe even Rhodes. This year they have to address DT, SS, WR, and OL and can't do it all in-house or via the draft.
  • Drafting #3 or #4 - In all likelihood it will be #4. Remember the last time the Raiders had a coin flip for draft position? They were announced the winners only to have it revoked and handed to the 49ers. Was it the tuck rule? It was only the difference between Vernon Davis and Michael Huff, anyway. Here the Raiders have not done so well. Kiffin's first draft was ok. The positives seem to be JaMarcus, Zach Miller, Jay Richardson, and Oren O'Neal. Busts include Quentin Moses and Johnnie Lee Higgins. Bush and Mario Henderson are incomplete, although a 3rd rounder never being active for a game (Henderson) sounds like a bust to me. Johnnie Lee gets my vote for least favorite Raider in 2007. Ok, so he's only a rookie. But Kiffin placed a major bet on him to be our deep threat and he did nothing. Punt returns? His 50-yarder on Sunday was more than offset by a propensity to muff, including this week's edition where he looked pretty similar to my wife trying to catch a long pass - more interested in ensuring it doesn't hit her face than catching it. With the #4 pick in the draft and an early second rounder the Raiders could fill two big holes immediately.

So, obviously I'm excited for the offseason, sad as it sounds. That is until another stellar Nancy Gay/Ira Miller prediction comes true and Kiffin leaves to bring the SMU program back to prominence.

Happy New Year!

2 comments:

John Sousa said...

Outstanding.

Sllaacs said...

It is going to happen again. Man, I had a long comment about how the Raiders probably won't compete in the AFC West next year, but the fucking BlogSpot bitch ass program just disconnected and erased all my fucking comments when I tried to post. Awesome.