Aug 29, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders: NFC West holds key to Raiders success in AFC West


They say “steel sharpens steel.” For the Oakland Raiders, the best steel is right in their own division.

In 2013 the AFC West division sent three teams to the playoffs. An impressive feat in the tough landscape of the NFL. Unfortunately for the Oakland Raiders, they were the odd man out finishing with a 4-12 record.

Looking at the AFC West, I see a division that has grown and overcome in just a few short years. A division that was a laughing-stock as early as 2011, has now come full circle and is home of the AFC Champion Denver Broncos.

The Broncos were dominated in Super Bowl XLVIII losing to the champion Seattle Seahawks, who rose from a very similar NFC West division.

The NFC West division was the worst in football in 2010. Boasting the starting quarterbacks of an aging Matt Hassleback, Derek Anderson, Alex Smith, and rookie Sam Bradford. The Seahawks won the division that year and backed their way into the playoffs with a disgusting 7-9 record.

In 2014 all four NFC West teams now boast incredible defenses and credible quarterback play, even if you count Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford. In 2013 the Rams finished last in the Division with a 7-9 record, which in 2010 would have been good enough for the playoffs.

So how do you go from the Worst Division in Football, to the Best?

Well, you bring in great Head Coaches and GM’s, and more importantly you bring in impact players through the NFL Draft.

Take a look at this chart of NFC West Impact Players Drafted between the 2010- 2013.

Teams:
Cardinals:
Rams:
Seahawks:
49ers:
2010 NFL DraftDaryl WashingtonSam Bradford, Rodger SaffoldRussell Okung, Earl Thomas, Kam ChancellorAnthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Navarro Bowman
2011 NFL DraftPatrick PetersonRobert QuinnKJ Wright, Richard Sherman, Malcolm SmithAldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick,
2012 NFL DraftMichael Floyd, Bobby MassieMichael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine JohnsonBruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell WilsonN/A
2013 NFL DraftJonathan Coopers, Tyrann Mathieu, Andre EllingtonTavon Austin, Alec Olgetree, Zac StacyN/AEric Reid

The chart provides a stark visual to the phrase “build through the draft”.

It further highlights the importance of the NFL Draft as all four teams landed impact players and starters in nearly each of the draft years.

To add to the impressive drafts, these NFC West teams also made great choices in Head Coaches. They made the tough decisions of cutting the bait with a head coach when necessary, and brought in top flight Head Coaches with something to prove.

Pete Carroll was washed out in New England, before taking USC to a couple National Championships. Carroll was thought of as too “rah,rah”, a player friendly college coach who just wouldn’t cut it in the NFL. One Super Bowl later, and those criticisms are now a distant memory.

Jim Harbaugh another former college coach from Stanford, helped turn a talented yet under achieving team in the 49ers, into a playoff team after one year. Harbaugh has yet to get his Super Bowl ring, but the 49ers are now one of the elite teams in the NFL.

Both the Rams and Cardinals have done the same. The Rams brought in the respected Jeff Fisher, who ran his course in Tennessee, but now brings a disciplined winning pedigree in St. Louis. Bruce Arians helped propel the Cardinals to the next level, with his innovative and daring offense. As well as his great enthusiasm and passion. Arians was a long time assistant who earned the right to be a Head Coach, and is well-respected throughout the league.

The teams in the NFC West competed against each other, drafted well, and brought in great Head Coaches. They went from mediocre to great, by not trying to compete with the rest of the league, but by trying to compete with each other

Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC West is now in a very similar position. All four teams in the AFC West now have proven quarterbacks, with ironically Alex Smith once again making an appearance. The Chiefs brought in respected Head Coach Andy Reid last year and made the playoffs after a 2-14 season the year before.

Denver got their man in 2011, hiring John Fox after the Josh McDaniels debacle. I’ve always been a fan of John Fox, and was hoping the Raiders would hire him after the firing Tom Cable. Although Fox has enjoyed success with Peyton Manning, it was his time with Tim Tebow as his starting QB that impressed me. Fox is a disciplined defensive minded Head Coach, who has also fielded competitive football teams.

Both current Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy and the Raiders Dennis Allen have worked under Fox in Denver. While both are respected, up and coming, first time Head Coaches, time will tell if they are the right men for the job.

In the end, even with a great Head Coach, it is the NFL Draft that is paramount. How do the Oakland Raiders compare against the other AFC West Teams?

Lets take a look at the AFC West Impact Players Drafted between 2010-2013.

 

Teams:
Broncos
Chargers
Chiefs
Raiders
2010 NFL DraftDemaryius Thomas, Eric DeckerRyan Mathews, Donald ButlerEric Berry, Jon Asamoah*Lamarr Houston, *Jared Veldheer
*Not on 2014 Roster
2011 NFL DraftVon Miller, Julius Thomas, Orlando FranklinCorey Liuget, Vincent BrownRodney Hudson, Justin HoustonStefen Wisniewski, Tawain Jones, Denarius Moore
2012 NFL DraftDerek Wolfe, Danny TrevathanMelvin Ingram, Ladarius GreenDontari Poe, Jeff AllenN/A
2013 NFL DraftMontee Ball, Sylvester WilliamsDJ Fluker, Manti Te'o, Keenan AllenEric FisherSio Moore, Mychal Rivera, DJ Hayden, Menelik Watson

As you can see, the loss of both Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston in free agency leaves the Raiders with only “Three” starters drafted between 2010-2013. With only “One” Stefen Wisniewski, drafted prior to Reggie McKenzie. The other two are Sio Moore and DJ Hayden, although both Menelik Watson and Mychal Rivera could earn starting roles this season.

I was even a bit generous in adding Tawain Jones and Denarius Moore. Jones is a special teams “Ace” and maybe the best gunner in the league. Denarius Moore has had his moments, but his inconsistency may see him leaving Oakland soon. Check out my previous article.

I hate to beat a “Dead Horse” (No Denver Bronco pun intended, Haha), but the Raiders inability to land top-tier talent has left them playing catch up in one of the toughest divisions in football. Which as a Raider Fan, you know is thrown in your face nearly every day by the Sports Media and fans alike.

As May 8th approaches, an almost second Christmas for most football fans, we should keep things in perspective. The Oakland Raiders are a work in progress. Yet achieving the goals of making the playoffs and competing for a Super Bowl begin and end with the NFL Draft.

The competitive AFC West should not be viewed as some impossible mountain to climb, but as a true blessing in disguise. The way the Seahawks rose from mediocre, to competitive, to Super Bowl Champs can be duplicated. The Raiders have the blueprint and elite competition in their division to build a championship team.

Competing and beating the best is the only way to win in this league. It is the Raider way, and they should embrace the challenge looking forward to a bright future.

 

 

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft AFC West Denver Broncos Kansas City Chiefs NFC West Oakland Raiders San Diego Chargers

  • Jaime Olguin

    Right on Vic, as you are right to say time will
    tell if Dennis is the right man for the job, I do
    have faith in this regime, the road to success
    is threw the draft, hopefully we will get the right player to help us compete in this division,
    and that would of been cool to bring back John Fox. Thank you for your input and great job. Go Raiders

  • Raider Grant

    Exactly Vic, the new regime has FAILED to secure impact players & decent head coach! Even when you point out obvious, people act like things start this year??? The new regime has busted on two previous drafts & Free Agent off seasons. McKenzie has blundered a number of deals to include securing an decent QB. How can we build through draft when we continue to give up draft picks??? Oh yeah, we just trade back every year & FAIL to secure impact player? For the Raiderd sake I hope McKenzie can hit a grand slam during this years draft! As far as Dennis Allen, he is a joke & I truly believe this is his last year as the Raider head coach. Allen is full of excuses, scared to fight for players he wants
    or needs, can’t groom QB talent, and just seems to be going through the motions. Your either a leader of men, or your not & Dennis Allen is NOT a leader of men. Save the response that he had no talent to work with or the issue about the cap space as it has nothing to do with selecting true talent, ensuring deals are made, or being a leader of men. Long live Raider Nation & Go Raider!!!

  • Chris Schroeder

    So I take it you’re not a fan of Dennis Allan, lol! Man I don’t know if you’re one man wrecking crew or one man support group. I like how you finished with the basic “save the drama for your mama” in hindsight. Yeah who cares if they had no money and no draft picks, and had to trade down because the previous regime sold away all their draft picks thanks to Mr. Al Davis’s drastic decision making. Who cares if they get a bunch of players last year they intended to be the building blocks of the future because they knew they weren’t going to be competitive in 2013. That must’ve been a dumb strategic move huh? Who cares if they were pegged by almost all commentators to be the worst team in the NFL last year because of their lack of talent and depth and the fact that Dennis Allen kept them in almost every game even without a proven quarterback and with a makeshift team only to lose in the second half due to lack of depth. In fact, in the first half collectively they outscored their opponents for the majority of the year. But Dennis Allen must truly suck, he’s gotta go right? You may not want to hear about the salary cap being the worst ever, or the lack of talent on the team (not the new regimes fault) but those are the facts brotha. I’ll save it, sure. Still doesn’t changed it. Jim Harbaugh, John Fox, Pete Carroll all took over their teams when they were stacked with talent and weren’t salary cap strapped. Fact!!! and they were experienced head coaches. if you put them on the Raiders team with what we had having watched them in the past I would be surprised if they ended up with four wins. Dennis Allan came from Texas A&M and is very militaristic like. That’s why there hasn’t been any issues off the field with this team since he took over. This front office and coaching staff is not only responsible for winning but is also responsible for changing the culture of an organization. Which one of those NFC teams or AFC teams have had the challenges that the Raiders new regime has had to face. Riddle me that before we start throwing stones at the head coach.

    I love the passion and fire though. Keep it coming, go Raiders 4 life.

  • Don

    Fact!

  • Pridenpoise

    It would seem you’re the one that’s full of excuses, and then you don’t want to listen to credible reasons as to why there have been problems the past two years, with the coaching staff, maybe Dennis Allen isn’t the answer, but i am so sick and tired of all these internet experts that think any coach in the NFL, could have magically transformed this roster into contenders, or something more than what they were, which was a very bad team.

  • Mark from Section 122

    I totally agree on your view of Dennis Allen, he rode the coattails of others until the Peter Principle kicked in. If he were in the military, he would be that bookworm-ish skinny baby-faced timid 2nd Lieutenant military academy graduate with no leadership skills and no common sense, leading his platoon to certain doom while citing military theory and regulations. He would get fragged in a combat zone. Demote him to ball boy.

  • Mark from Section 122

    How about this….Fire Reggie, and Allen, bring in Madden as GM and bring back Chuckie as head coach.

  • Raider Grant

    Thanks for the reply Mark, Spot on with the comment too! Officer fresh out of organized chicken scratching(OCS) who has to learn everything that wasn’t in the book from Sgt who actually can lead the troops & knows how to operate in the real life situations. I’ll give McKenzie this years draft to prove he can build this team, but Dennis Allen pack your bags! No excuses here, just tired of hearing them. GO Raiders

  • Lance Bailey

    The Raiders #5 pick seems pretty simple to me. You take whoever is available from this list, in this order:
    1) Greg Robinson
    2)Khalil Mack
    3) Jake Mathews
    One of those guys will be available at #5. I really hope the Raiders don’t roll the dice again on a WR or QB. Build the team from the trenches out.

  • Raider Grant

    Dear Optimism Officer: 1st of all I’m a 3rd generation Raider fanatic, and just because I don’t happily agree with some, ora lot of the decisions being made does not make me in any way less of a fan.Believe me I can wait to having nothing but positive things to blog about, I watched my Grandpa & Father go to the grave with Black & Silver hearts. My father loved Al Davis, but could not wait for him to pass the torch(rip AL), Needless to say I’ve waited for this “NEW REGIME”