There has been a lot of talk about Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s offseason acquisitions. He’s gotten a considerable amount of flak for letting young players like Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer walk away as free agents, and for replacing them with older – “over the hill” according to some – veterans like Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley. What some of these talking heads don’t seem to take into account though, is that having had some success in the NFL, and having even some Super Bowl rings on their resume, these veteran players know how to win, what it takes to win and bring a certain mindset – a much needed mindset – with them. According to new acquisition Woodley, the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, it is believed that what this team needs most is what McKenzie’s free agent class brings to the table – knowing how to finish.
After going back and looking at the film of the Raiders last year, they were in a lot of games; they just didn’t finish. I felt like during the offseasons, they went and brought guys in that knew how to finish games. You bring that in here with the attitude that a lot of these players have and this team has and, I think, you go to the next level.
The Raiders were indeed in many of the games they played last season, but second-half defensive collapses, offensive turnovers and a plethora of other mistakes and miscues led to yet another lost season in which they compiled double digit losses for the ninth time since their Super Bowl appearance following the 2002 season.
Though he was deemed expendable in Pittsburgh because of his age and injury history, the 29-year-old Woodley had plenty of suitors during the offseason before he opted to sign with the Silver and Black. He believes that he has more than enough left in the tank to contribute to a winning team, and that with the pieces already in place, along with the new acquisitions to the roster, the Raiders have the opportunity to move beyond consecutive 4-12 seasons, beyond more than a decade of misery, and become one of the NFL’s elite teams once again.
He made that point abundantly clear when he made the proclamation that the Raiders are a playoff caliber team. A point that received much scoffing and ridicule, but a point that he’s made several times since.
Anybody that plays this sport, that should be their main objective. If you come in here and just say, ‘I just want to be 8-8,’ I wouldn’t want you to be part of my team. Anybody on this team, the objective should always be the top and say, ‘Man, I want to win the Super Bowl.’ Anything less, I wouldn’t want you on my team. That’s the winning attitude. That’s the attitude you need to have. If no, I wouldn’t want to play with you.
It’s that sort of attitude that Woodley, Tuck, Antonio Smith, CJ Wilson, Tarrell Brown, Maurice Jones-Drew, James Jones, Carlos Rogers, Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe, Austin Howard and even Matt Schaub bring to the table. It’s that sort of attitude and belief in their team that McKenzie is demanding be impressed upon Oakland’s younger players, and the Raiders are buying into.
That is a championship mindset. That is the attitude you want your team to have. That’s exactly why McKenzie went out and brought in these players who have championship attitudes, and championship pedigrees because they can help transform this team. They can take Oakland to the next level by teaching them how to finish.