Sunday, March 8, 2009

Raider Season

The Raider offseason rolls on, and despite the lack of free agent signings it remains generally more interesting and positive than recent regular seasons. The loss of Marquis Cooper is clearly worse than anything that goes on during the regular season (even that Atlanta game last year), but it has given us more of a glimpse into the type of leader Tom Cable will be. Coupled with the strategy to hold onto our own proven free agents, I really like what I'm seeing from this latest Raider push to remake the locker room. It looks genuine.

It is sometimes difficult to understand why the Raiders of recent years have been so bad year after year, no matter the coaches, no matter the personnel. What is it about Al Davis that translates so directly into performance on the field. Poor talent acquisition? Yes, but there is quite a bit of talent on the team, and it wasn't long ago that Kerry Collins was throwing to Randy Moss and losing 11+ games per year. Defensive scheme limitations? Probably, but few would single out the defense as the bigger problem in recent years. An insistence on the vertical game? Maybe, but for two consecutive 11+ loss years the Raiders have been a zone-blocking, run-first team.

The answer is the same as the answer to the mystery of why the Raiders lead the league in penalties every year despite fielding completely different personnel led by completely different coaches. There is neither discipline nor accountability that translates through the organization to the players. Lane Kiffin calls it "dysfunction."

I like to think that the Raiders are being punished for signing the players I hate the most. In 2008 the trend continued with Javon Walker, a man who gained my dislike by participating in Drew Rosenhaus' great holdout scam of a few years ago, publicly feuded with my man Brett Favre, and then signed with the hated Broncos. This year we have dodged two bullets: Jerramy Stevens, alleged rapist, re-signed with the Bucs, and of course T.O. took his act to Siberia.

Hey Johnny, we need a safety and guess who's available?

Whether to avoid curse or dysfunction, repealing the "talent at all costs" approach of the past will help this team. Both Tim Kawakami and Bill Williamson make logical arguments centered on Al resisting the allure of T.O. A backhanded compliment from Kawakami is about the best Al can expect.

This year's Commitment to Excellence award went to Nnamdi and Justin Fargas. While they run in different social circles - Nnamdi hobnobs with Bill Clinton and Fargas with a guy who does inhale - these are the guys who will anchor the 2009 Raider locker room. It is interesting to see what Fargas had to say to Jason Jones about the upcoming year: "Probably the most exciting thing I can say going into this season is we have the same coach. We have direction as a team and we know where Coach (Tom) Cable is coming from, what he's trying to do with us and where we're trying to go."

Simple, but arguably missing since Gruden left.

It is likely that I am becoming too optimistic during the offseason, as usual. But you have to admit that when the 49ers are the other local team, Raider offseasons always look pretty good.

1 comment:

John Sousa said...

Is Roy Williams still available? I hate Rodney Harrison. Tank Johnson is available, too, but I don't know if he's still taking advantage of the lapse of the assault weapons ban.