Oakland Raiders: Superstars Alone Don’t Win Championships, Teams Do

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a busy and productive offseason in which Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has addressed the team’s many glaring needs while improving the depth and talent up and down the roster, there has been no shortage of critics lining up to find the flaws in his work. It seems that regardless of the fact that the Raiders are a vastly improved club, many continue to predict yet another season of abject failure. While some of the criticisms may warrant discussion and aren’t completely without merit, others border on the outright absurd — such as the idea that the Raiders can’t win because they lack “star power.”

Writer Erik Lambert over at Fansided recently expressed his doubts about the Raiders’ ability to win this season because of a lack of marquee names.

“Typically, the easiest way to make a playoff run is having a strong core of star players. The Oakland Raiders don’t have that luxury.”

Setting aside the fact that players like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and Maurice Jones-Drew, among others, likely consider themselves established stars in the NFL, the idea that the only way to make a playoff run is by having a roster filled with the biggest names available is ridiculous. Having superstars on your roster guarantees you nothing – just ask Lebron James and the Miami Heat about that.

What Lambert, and others who subscribe to the idea that to win you must have superstars at every position, fail to grasp is – well – not only what it takes to win, but everything McKenzie is trying to build in Oakland. They fail to understand his philosophy, or see his vision for rebuilding a franchise left in tatters by the late Al Davis. The same Al Davis who, in his later years, mortgaged the future of the club by chasing superstar talent and handed out bloated contracts like candy. It’s a philosophy that led to the failure and misery of the Raiders. Their fans have endured this for more than a decade running.

McKenzie’s critics bemoan the fact that he didn’t pursue a player like Darrelle Revis or Alterraun Verner, or make a play for New Orleans Saints “pass catcher” Jimmy Graham. Given the amount of cap space Oakland had to play with, he certainly could have if he’d chosen to. But McKenzie was smart with his money and targeted a specific type of player who fit into his vision for the Raiders – a tough-as-nails, hungry-as-hell, blue collar team that fights to the whistle and takes nothing for granted.

While Revis and Verner are incredible talents and tremendous football players, and are the sort of marquee names Lambert and others blast McKenzie for not making a play on, neither Revis nor Verner alone was going to get the Raiders over the hump. For what each of them are being paid this season, McKenzie was able to give a number of different, important pieces to HC Dennis Allen, OC Greg Olson, and DC Jason Tarver to lay a solid foundation for the Raiders’ success this season, and for the future. While perhaps not as flashy and lacking “star power,” McKenzie put together a solid core of players who know how to win.

Having “superstars” on your roster isn’t a guarantee of anything, let alone success. Having a group of players who are willing to put in the work, who are willing to grind, and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team – rather than just for themselves – puts you in a much better position to win. Now and in the future.

And after years upon years of not being in a position to win, the Raiders now find themselves in a position to do just that – even if it’s without a lot of “star power.”

Kevin Saito is a fiction writer, sports junkie, history nerd, and NFL contributor to RantSports.com He’s just a “clown with an opinion,” and you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or on Google.


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  • chris from cal

    Nice thoughts. If we’d ended up with a better group of cb’s such as picking up flowers, not a superstar, we might have gone a long way this season. But we did not.

    • saito8204

      Flowers would have been a good add, but I think that players like McGill and Carrie are going to be big surprises in camp. With them, Brown, Rogers, and Hayden — if he can ever get healthy — I think the Raiders will be in good shape. It’s not a superstar-laden secondary, but it is one that will be able to get the job done. And it’s certainly a vast upgrade over last season’s horrific unit.

      • chris from cal

        Good to hear, and those 2 courtesy of SF, if both healthy through the majority of th season should be a big help.

  • Reggie Mac

    Cultivating A Winning Culture. #ALLIN

    • saito8204

      #ALLIN for sure. I love the culture change McKenzie is bringing to Oakland. I think it will pay big rewards.