OAKLAND CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Bruce Gradkowski #5 of the Oakland Raiders is congratulated by Zach Miller #80 after they beat the St. Louis Rams at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 19 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
We are half way home on the series.
If I were new Raiders head coach Hue Jackson I wouldn't be looking to settle in. I would find a nice apartment with a water view somewhere along the Ocean Marina and sign a short term lease. I wouldn't even bother fully unpacking. Technically Jackson's already been there a year but you get the point, Raider's coaches don't last long. In the past decade the Raiders' coaching carousel has been in full swing as no coach has managed to find a permanent home in the bay area. Since Jon Gruden was surprisingly fired after a successful 2001 season, the Raiders have shuffled through 6 head coaches.
CALLING JOHN MADDEN.
The list is as follows:
Bill Callahan: (15-17 .469 winning percentage)
Norv Turner: (9-23 .281 winning percentage) - I think everyone knew he wasn't going to succeed
Art Shell: (2-14 .125 winning percentage) - clearly his second go-around was not nearly as successful
Lane Kiffin: (5-15 .250 winning percentage) - See Norv Turner, multiply by 100
Tom Cable: (7-17 .368 winning percentage) - better coach than record indicated, still didn't matter
Hue Jackson: What is the over-under that he lasts more than 3 years? Any bets for over? Nope? None?
Good luck Hue. You've got a talented bunch of guys to work with, its the crazy owner you've got to watch out for.
The sad fact is, as is evidence by Gruden's firing, win or lose it may not make a difference.
Season in Review: The Raaaaiiiidddddersss are back! (Maybe)
The Oakland Raiders season was quite a pleasant surprise - all the more reason Tom Cable's firing was bizarre. After what looked like another lost year after a ugly 1-3 start, the Raiders turned it around reeling off 4 of their next 5 to enter their week 10 bye at 5-4.
Only the most hardcore silver and black fans could have truthfully predicted that Oakland would be out in front of the rest of the AFC West.
Entering the season the raiders were still unsure and nervous about newly signed Jason Campbell. Such apprehension plagued the Raiders throughout the season as former head coach Tom Cable rotated backup Bruce Gradkowski in and out of the lineup. A week 13 injury to Gradkowski solved Cable's indecision for him, but by that time it almost didn't matter. Oakland had already cemented its identity as a powerful rushing team. The Raiders finished the season ranked 2nd in the league in rushing (156 yards per game) on the backs of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
McFadden, the former number 4 pick in the draft, finally lived up to his billing exploding for 1157 yards on a 5.2 ypc average. Bush, also a highly touted runner coming out of college, complimented Mcfadden's speed with a bruising running style which earned him 655 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Oakland relied on the thunder-and-lightening attack to dominate their division, sweeping all 6 AFC West contests.
Unfortunately early season miscues against bad teams dug them a hole that they could never fully climb out of. Tough losses including thrilling contests with Jacksonville and against the Colts, which finally sunk their pirate ship.
With Cable gone, it will be interesting to see if the Raiders can maintain the momentum. After sweeping hated rivals Kansas City, San Diego and Denver though, the Raiders have to feel pretty good about themselves.
Offseason Momentum: Can Hugh Jackson harness it?
Tom Cable's departure was certainly strange, although maybe to be expected given Al Davis' dogmatic regime and constant desires for metamorphosis at the head coaching position.
It's as if Hugh Jackson is the latest flavor of the month at Baskin Robbins.
At some point its almost unfair, especially to a guy like Jason Campbell who has played for his now 4th head coach and 6th offense coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 7 years. Any former quarterback will tell you that having to endure such upheaval will stunt development.
The Raiders have a lot of young talent and two great running backs to carry them. The question for the silver and black, is whether they can supplement the ground game enough to form a balanced attack.
Having the leagues second ranked rushing attack is great, but if your own division rival is one better in that regard, without reliable production and points from the quarterback it can only take you so far.
Defensively, any offseason momentum hangs in the balance with Nnamdi Asomugha's decision about whether to return to Oakland or escape Al Davis' insufferable grip.
As writer Raymond St. Martin from our sister blog silverandblackpride.com remarked, resigning Richard Seymour was quote "Step one in completing the Oakland Raiders super bowl dream"
That might be a tad overblown, but if the Raiders can pull off a major stunner and resign Asomugha, St. Martin nor anyone else in silver and black nation will be able to control themselves, which judging by that picture is simply terrifying.
Offseason Anxiety: Qb, and why the defense couldn't stop the run.
Obviously quarterback is an issue. Bruce Gradkowski isn't really starter material. The jury is still out on Campbell but it may suit Coach Jackson to give him a shot as Campbell showed remarkable improvement towards the end of the season throwing only 2 interceptions compared to 5 touchdowns.
However a more vexing question, is what happened to the defense? Against the pass they were great, ranking second and holding opponents to 189 yards per game. Stopping the run? That was a whole different story and an issue that cost the Raiders dearly.
On paper, the Raiders D looks fierce and well built to stop the run. With 2 big 300 pound run stoppers in the middle and athletic ends that could pressure the quarterbacks, Oakland should have been able to contain the run.
Yet top backs continually exploited them.
Chris Johnson ran for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns in a week 1 Tennessee win. Arian Foster exploded for 133 yards 3 weeks later and Frank Gore absolutely shredded the Raiders front 7 for a 149 yards on the day.
Granted, those are some of the league's best backs. But a line with 300 pound Tommy Kelly, 310 pound pro bowler Richard Seymour and 330 pound monster John Henderson should never surrender those kinds of yards.
The fact that Dominic Rhodes, yes the guy who was playing for the Florida Tuskers, was a few yards short of the 100 yard mark pretty much proves the point. The Raiders were helpless against the run.
The linebacking core lead by stud rookie linebacker Rolando McClain contributed to the problem as well. While they are a highly talented and young group, they need to spend the offseason addressing angles to the ball. Apparently some of them didn't pay attention in geometry class...
(Be the way, who comes up with the name tuskers??? I know its an indigenous boar (ok I looked it up) but I could think of 3548 more appropriate names for a Florida team).
Draft Desires: Oakland doesn't have a first round pick
Most years the Raiders would be royally screwed without a first round draft pick. After consecutive successful drafts however, Oakland's ship has few leaks. As shocking as it may sound, Oakland is in a good position providing they can resign key players. Now, offensive line is still a concern as the Oakland quarterbacks were too often roughed up. The line gelled towards the end, but look for Oakland to address the line with at least 2 picks.
Needing a tough interior tackle, Clemson's Chris Hairston, Arkansas' Demarcus Love or TCU's Marcus Cannon would all be smart selections.
Free Agency Farewells: Nnamdi Asomugha
Decision day for their star cornerback draws ever nearer (actually if there is a lockout it will be put off even more but playing it up is more fun). The Raiders though have more concerns than just Asomugha. Sure they locked down their biggest worry not named Nnamdi in Seymour but Robert Gallery finally came on towards the end of last season, Michael Bush was a vital cog in the running attack and Zach Miller is a weapon - and Jason Campbell's security blanket - as a tight end.
Plus the Raiders have to consider bringing back Bruce Gradkowski, who when healthy provided them with a spark, and Samson Satele who was their starting center and a good up and coming player. On top of all that their starting free safety Michael Huff and their other starting cornerback Stanford Routt are also on the market.
As if it could get any worse, a lot of quality backups, including big John Henderson also had expiring contracts...
No team got hit harder by the CBA agreements ending then the Raiders as no team has more free agents to worry about.
Maybe the boat isn't as sound as we thought...
In terms of how free agency impacts the Colts, there are a few potential players who may be worth taking a look at. Safety Michael Huff would be an ideal candidate to replace Bob Sanders, although safety isn't a high enough priority and the Colts wouldn't spend free agent money at that position. John Henderson is also an interesting case. He is close to being washed up but once upon a time, he was a terror as a defensive tackle in Jacksonville and he is 330 lbs. Other than Robert Gallery, and he may be asking for too much, I don't see anyone else who would make sense. Michael Bush would be an awesome addition but our backfield is already loaded and unfortunately as has been previously discussed, Asomugha is way out of our price range.
Threat to the Stampede: Colts sailed right through
We knocked off the Raiders last year and probably won't see them again soon. Oakland may be improved, may even win the division but a playoff match up with the Colts seems unlikely. The Raiders have to get through San Diego and Kansas City for that to happen. Even if a playoff matchup does materialize, Indianapolis is too experienced to let Oakland cause much harm.