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Contenders not Pretenders

For seven long years, fans of the Oakland Raiders have hung their heads in shame watching the sham that Mr. Allen Davis was calling a football team in the Oakland Coliseum. In fact, it was so bad that some probably were not even watching, choosing instead to enter the solitude of bag on the head syndrome. For the first time in a long time, the Raiders are a team that you can go watch and have a good time.

Three in a row or four out of five are not things that are supposed to be associated with the Oakland Raiders these days. Al Davis is crazy, the Raiders need a G.M., and the Patriots are getting a great first round pick next year. Isn’t that how this story line is supposed to go?

Well, what happened? I will tell you what happened: Al Davis hired Tom Cable. Cable learned from his predecessor “Lance” Kiffin’s mistake and got in good with the boss. From that moment forward the rest was bound to happen.

As the interim Head Coach, he led these young Raiders to victory in three of the last six games. This stretch included consecutive wins over an up and coming Houston Texans team and denied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playoffs. More importantly, they got their first lesson in learning to never quit. That happened in a 49-26 beat down at the hands of the New England Patriots. The Raiders were getting stomped and went into the locker room hanging their heads. They came out with a different vibe, and they fought back hard, regardless of the score.

In 2009, the Raiders hit a speed bump. It was a large speed bump that played college football at LSU and was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. Later in that year, they learned they could match-up well with most teams, and they found something else too- leadership.

Nnamdi Asomugha became more of a voice in the locker room by contributing his input and study habits to not only fellow defensive teammates, but offensive wide receivers and other skill players as well. Robert Gallery became a leader for the offensive line. Gallery missed a lot of action in 2009, but it was clear from the get go that the line was much better when he was a part of it. Bruce Gradkowski came in and put some fire in the offensive huddle, something that was desperately lacking and definitely needed during the short duration of the speed bump’s career.

Richard Seymour was brought in via trade for a first round draft choice in 2009.In 2010, Seymour has been a beast. Currently tied for second on his team in the sack department (4.5), this 6’6″ 310 mammoth has proven to be worth that 2011 first round draft choice. Seymour’s leadership has been second to none on this team. Seymour made a statement by coming into training camp on the rookies’ bus, pulling out his three Super Bowl Championship rings and awing even Nnamdi Asomugha by telling this young team that none of those teams he won championships with were as talented as these Raiders.

For fans that have been following this thing since it started with the hire of head coach Tom Cable (perhaps the year before when Davis Hired Cable as his O-Line coach), the 2010 may not be such a surprise as it is to some outsiders. Cable said he would deliver a winner to Raider Nation. He said it has been a long time since the Raiders were winners. He initiated his “1-0” philosophy and the players bought in. For those who have stayed loyal, the road has been very, very long. From about the end of 2008, it was clear that the team may in fact be headed in the right direction.

Some people still continue to say things like, “Tom Cable doesn’t have a choice, Al said so…” to which I reply, isn’t the point of a team to work together? Don’t you think that Davis and Cable might have a mutual understanding of the nature of the matter at hand? Or is Tom Cable just another Davis Puppet? I don’t know, really it’s neither here nor there.

The point is this: the Raiders’ are contenders, not pretenders. I, for one, believe what Richard Seymour told this team. They are more talented than the New England Patriots ever were. This team wouldn’t have to rely on the tuck rule at the end of a game to finish that one out.

I think it’s good that the rookies are getting their credit for contributing. Kudos for Jason Campbell for getting that dirt off your shoulder, and the defense is getting it done period, you really can’t say enough good things about this whole process, special teams have improved…it’s all coming together now. One group that has been a little over looked during this whole resurgence is the offensive line.

Since Jared Veldheer took over permanently for Mario Henderson, this unit has produced two five-hundred yard games and a very impressive second half against the Kansas City Chiefs. Another factor in the process of this insanity has been left guard Robert Gallery—whom I just voted for to go to the Pro Bowl. Seriously, the left side of this offensive line has been lights out…well maybe not lights out, but let’s go with a lot better.

So, it’s all coming together for the Raiders now. This plane has been cleared for take-off. And this plane is going places fast, like a speedy wide receiver. This team could hang with any team in the league and now they know it, so watch out NFL. Not only that but now they are proving that they’ve even got quality back-ups that can hang with NFL starters on a play in and play out basis. The Raiders are a tough and gritty bunch, they are scrappy and young and fast, and now they are all grown up.

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