Everything the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints are, the Oakland Raiders must strive to become one day. While the difference in class is a vast as the waters separating the United States from Japan, the similarities in structure are similar.
Don’t take my word for it. Examine the rosters and you’ll see what I mean.
There are no 1,000-yard rushers in the French Quarter. What the Saints have is a diverse collection of running backs with various skill sets utilized in dynamic ways. You could give Tom Cable’s running backs to Sean Payton and there’d still be a Lombardi on its way to The Big Easy. If you gave Payton’s runners to Cable there’d still be another 11-loss season in the East Bay.
The difference is the ability of Payton to get the most out of what he’s got.
Both Reggie Bush and Darren McFadden will never be the prototypical NFL style runners. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving that Cable would finally use McFadden as a wide receiver in ‘09. It took Payton all of one mini-camp to comprehend how best to get Bush touches. Cable has a Bush of his own too – Michael Bush. Oakland’s Bush was by far the best runner on the team, yet he was often frozen out of the offense. Hue Jackson take note.
The lone 1,000-yard receiver on the Saints’ roster, Marques Colston, barely snuck over the line with 1,074 yards receiving. Colston, a 7th round pick in the ’06 draft, is a big target with good speed and some pretty reliable hands (his Super Bowl drop not withstanding). Sound familiar? Almost reminds me of a guy the Raiders snagged in the 7th round of the ’08 draft – Chaz Schilens. No, Schilens has not proven himself to be the talent Colston is, but he has similar abilities and talents.
Robert Meachem, just two healthy years into his NFL career, has already been labeled as a bust by some. But he still has a role and his coaches have found ways to get the most out of what he can offer to the team. Darrius Heyward-Bey take note.
Then there’s the defense.
The Saints, like the Raiders, play a bend but don’t break style of D. However, the Saints keep the ball in front of them at all times, whereas the Raiders are constantly pursuing the ball in allowing big play after big play. While Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best cover corners you’ll ever see, his talent mean nothing if the men behind him aren’t doing their job. The New Orleans secondary does boast of Darren Sharper, one of the best playmakers to ever play the game. Michael Mitchell take note.
When it comes to pressuring the quarterback, both teams are very similar. The Saints totaled 35 sacks during the regular season, one less than what the Raiders amassed in ’09. The Saints, like the Raiders, weren’t great against the run. However, New Orleans forced more turnovers and in turn gave their offense more opportunities.
Of course, the biggest difference is the quarterback position.
JaMarcus Russell has nothing in common with Drew Brees. Russell has physical gifts Brees could only dream of. Brees has a work ethic which Russell will never possess.
Therein lies the reason why the Saints hoisted a Lombardi and the Raiders are drafting in the top 10 yet again.
The Raiders are a rudderless ship in desperate need of direction. Brees has a quick release, makes definitive decisions and is as accurate a thrower as you’ll find. But his biggest asset is his ability to get the team on one page, united for one cause. JaMarcus Russell take note.
There is much work to be done in Alameda before the Raiders can even begin to contemplate adding another trophy to the cabinet. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Al Davis doesn’t have a flattering bone in his body. He still desires to do things his way no matter the results.
Perhaps that is truly the biggest problem.