Quite frankly, they’ve been so bad for so long that it’s been a number of years since the Oakland Raiders have had to labor beneath the weight of expectations.
But that all changed this offseason. With GM Reggie McKenzie finally freed from the salary cap underworld imposed upon him by late owner Al Davis’s lavish contracts, he had the room to maneuver and start putting the pieces in place to rebuild the franchise.
He did just that in picking up free agents like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, Maurice Jones-Drew, James Jones and others. He spent wisely, didn’t overpay for players, and with a fully loaded draft card, picked up impact players like Khalil Mack and Derek Carr. It was a very smart, savvy offseason for the Raiders, and they finally look like a team on the rise.
But if you really thought you could just plug in all of these disparate pieces and have a cohesive and dominant unit overnight, you really need to adjust your expectations and your grip on reality.
Maybe it’s because the Raiders haven’t really been relevant in so many years, that the moment they are on the verge of relevancy again, sports media types like San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami are just chomping at the bit to tear them down again when they don’t meet his expectations on his timetable. That can really be the only explanation for his idea that new QB Matt Schaub and Mack aren’t “giving the Raiders a lift.”
Kawakami laments – or perhaps privately cheers – the fact that Oakland hasn’t come out of the gates like gangbusters, and haven’t yet dominated every second of every preseason game. What Kawakami, and perhaps all of those Raiders “fans” who are already jumping off the bandwagon, need to bear in mind is the fact that this is a team put together a couple of months ago. This is a team that first saw live game action just two weeks ago.
There are so many brand new moving parts that it’s going to take just a little bit of time to come together. The players need to learn to trust each other, learn each other’s tendencies and habits, and learn to play together as a team.
We saw them begin to do that with two very heated practices with the Dallas Cowboys, and in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions this past Friday. And as for Mack? He’s a rookie getting his first taste of live NFL action. There will be some adjustments and growing pains.
Despite limping through a sluggish and lifeless first quarter, what we saw from the Raiders’ effort against the Lions was progress. We saw Schaub begin to get into a rhythm and move the offense. We saw the defense finally stand up, make some plays, and begin to assert its will. Yes, there are issues that absolutely must be fixed, but overall, the team effort was solid.
And rather than laying down and giving up when they were down, the team kept fighting and found a way to win.
Progress is not as always quick as we’d like, but to deny the progress the Raiders made in their practices with the Cowboys and the preseason game against the Lions is to deny what we saw on Friday night. It’s wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was still a step in the right direction – despite the naysayers’ lack of logic and intellectual honesty.