Eight wins never meant so much. After witnessing seven years of the worst football in franchise history Raider Nation rejoiced at the accomplishment of getting back to .500. Tom Cable proclaimed the Raiders weren’t “losers anymore” and was promptly fired.
Eight wins will never mean much unless Hue Jackson can improve upon them, that’s why he got promoted.
There is an overwhelming feeling of optimism in the East Bay even amid a lockout. With the Raiders back into the football conscious of America it would appear the times are changing.
After a perfect romp through the AFC West it is impossible for the Raiders to improve on last season’s accomplishment. Still there is reason for optimism as the division is wide open. Where the Raiders stand to improve is how they perform outside of the meetings with their rivals. This is where the playoff hopes were lost. It was in San Francisco, Arizona and Jacksonville where Oakland’s playoff potential went bust in 2010.
With all the high hopes it is easy to get caught up in the promise of what could be. Based on that theory alone there is some concern that the team won’t be as hungry having gotten rid of the 11-loss albatross hanging around the neck of Al Davis.
Many will cite Oakland’s “tough” schedule as a reason to temper expectations. With games against playoff teams such as the Jets, Patriots and Bears, not to mention a date with the defending Super Bowl champs in Green Bay, plus the AFC West rivalries some have pegged the Raiders as a team destined for a downfall.
While on paper it would appear to be a grueling schedule there is no reason to assume that will be the case. Every year in the NFL pundits pick apart the NFL schedule in April circling key dates and predicting big games. By the end of the year those predictions often resemble James Harrison’s mentality – wrong.
Strength of schedule means nothing until the season begins. Anybody that had the Cowboys and Vikings on their schedule in 2010 might have thought they’d be in for a battle. Come the start of the season and both of those teams were on self-destruct. Who will it be in 2011? Perhaps a few of those teams on Oakland’s schedule will fail to live up to the hype.
Next is the myth that the Raiders will be complacent having won 8 games. With veteran leaders like Richard Seymour and Jason Campbell it seems unlikely that the locker room will be content with simply contending. This is not to say there won’t be a different mentality in Oakland as there absolutely should be. However given Seymour’s pedigree there is reason to believe contentment will not be allowed. As this could be Campbell’s last chance as an NFL starter he’s got no reason at all to get comfortable.
The final hurdle will be keeping the youth motivated. Oakland boasts some of the best young talent in the league. Generally these are the players Coach Jackson will have to spend most of his motivational time on.
Darren McFadden had a breakout year but you’ve got to think he still feels as if there is much to prove. Run DMC’s 2010 was eye opening for sure. Still there was no Pro Bowl selection, no rushing title and most importantly there was no playoff birth.
There is ample reason for McFadden to still be hungry and same goes for every other one of the young Raiders. Despite all of the love the likes of Jacoby Ford, Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy are getting they’ve still got much to prove. Mix in the disappointed Darrius Heyward-Bey, the underrated Tyvon Branch, the inconsistent Louis Murphy, the injury prone Chaz Schiles and you’ve got all kinds of reason for each player to prove something.
In all expectations are not too high in Oakland. In fact they might not be high enough. Given the languishing lockout there is no telling how teams will approach the season. With that wildcard added to the equation NFL supremacy could be up for grabs. Oakland’s playoff hopes are well warranted. While winning a Super Bowl is a stretch it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But first you’ve got to have a horse in the race.
Anything short of a playoff birth will be viewed as failure. The moral victories left the East Bay with Tom Cable. Expectations are as high as they’ve been in nearly a decade and there is no reason why they shouldn’t continue to grow.
Topics: Al Davis, Chaz Schilens, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hue Jackson, Jacoby Ford, James Harrison, Jason Campbell, Lamarr Houston, Louis Murphy, Matt Shaughnessy, Richard Seymour, Tom Cable, Tyvon Branch