Six years since the last Super Bowl appearance and we’re now half way to becoming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the 1980’s. A streak of 11 losses or more since 2003 has left Raider fans with a Rich Gannon hang over and a Tom Cable sized headache.
As it stands, the greatest mind in the history of football – Al Davis – is betting the franchise on the arm of JaMarcus Russell, the legs of Darren McFadden, the hands of Darrius Heyward-Bey and the heart of Nnamdi Asomugha.
Aside from Asomugha, the rest of the aforementioned anatomy is in question.
Tom Cable’s arrival marks the fifth head coach in six years. Things just haven’t been the same since Jon Gruden took his scowl from the East Bay to Tampa Bay.
The wallets of Raider Nation are being held hostage and season tickets aren’t getting any cheaper.
It goes without saying that times are bad. But how bad are they?
Has it become so bad that we question JaMarcus Russell because he does not have the physique of Corey Maggette? Are times so tough that we wonder if our draft is at a loss because a few rookies sit a couple days of mini-camp? Is the situation so dire that we ponder the future of our franchise just because of the Tweets of a Bay Area beat writer?
While the current situation might not equate an immediate return to the Commitment to Excellence, it certainly does not warrant a melt down in the middle of May.
Over the last month, the sounds of panic have echoed from the practice facility in Alameda to the empty Coliseum in Los Angeles. We all are desperate for a winner, yet somehow we’ve lost our focus.
While most NFL franchises are scrambling to win now, Al Davis has quietly been plotting to build a winner for years to come. After making a $250 million dollar mistake in 2008, Al Davis has finally listened to the calming voice of Tom Cable.
Raider fans must make a peace with the current state of affairs. This is the only way to weather the storm. The 2003 team that lost to Chucky on the grand stage was a veteran team. The team that will take the field in 2009 is a much younger edition of the Silver and Black. With youth comes mistakes and with mistakes – hopefully – comes growth.
Darrius Heyward-Bey will not make the Pro Bowl his rookie year. JaMarcus Russell is not going to supplant Gannon as the newest Raider MVP in 2009. Nnamdi Asomugha will still be the best cornerback in the NFL but he’ll most likely still be watching the playoffs next January.
The reality is that this is a young team with a first year head coach. Improvements are to be expected, but the fourth Lombardi trophy is but a mirage looming on the desert horizon.
Young legs must adjust to the rigors of the NFL. Heyward-Bey is not going to prove worthy of a top ten selection in one mini-camp. Young arms must continue to progress. Russell is not going to be benched for a few errant throws in May. New coaches must have a grasp on the talent that fills the roster. Cable is not Madden because he squeezed a few wins out of a hapless team in 2008.
The reality is that the young Oakland Raiders are still not yet ready to take the NFL by storm, at least not in May they’re not. Raider fans that are looking for reasons to jump ship after the first mini-camp are not true Raider fans at all. There is no such thing as a bandwagon in Oakland, but there is plenty of room on the one in San Diego.
Feel free to trade your number twenty one jersey in Silver and Black for a number twenty one jersey in powder blue if you’re nervous that your favorite team will still be the butt of jokes in ’09. The rest of us will continue to cheer just as loud while never forgetting why we support our team.
For better or for worse, this is the path that Mr. Davis has chosen. Misery loves company and I’ve got tickets to eight games in 2009. Who’s going to be there with me?