It’s been a decade of constant losing season disappointment, coach after coach, and internal organization drama for the Oakland Raiders. Since the 2003 Superbowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raiders haven’t had a winning season in more than nine seasons. The franchise has been in a state of decline. Since 2003, the Raiders have had seven head coaches, such as Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hugh Jackson, and now newly appointed Dennis Allen. The franchise has been very unstable, and every two years they have a new direction or system, because of coaching changes. Until recently, the Raiders did not have a general manager, and late owner Al Davis called all the shots, making him a very controlling figure. In the last decade, Al Davis did draft some good players, but he also drafted some bust draft picks, such as JaMarcus Russell in 2007. Russell was a complete bust pick, who was given a six-year $60 million deal, collecting more than 31 million in guaranteed money. Davis also signed several players, including wide receiver Javon Walker, corner back DeAngelo Hall, and safety Gibril Wilson, who did not pan out at all, but collected big pay days. These type of decision put the Raiders at least more than $24 million over the salary cap.
In October of 2011, long time Raiders Owner and NFL pioneer Al Davis died after having complications from surgery. Many in the organization and around the NFL world were saddened with Davis’s death. Many also saw a new era for the Raiders organization. In January of 2012, long time Packers front office man, Reggie McKenzie was appointed as the Oakland Raiders General Manager. As his first act, McKenzie and Mark Davis, Al Davis’s son, appointed former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen as the Raiders new head coach. Mark Davis has openly said that he will be supporting the franchise from the business stand point, and that Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen will be running the football operation of the team. It seems that the Raiders have set the pieces of a consistent foundation for the near and long term future, but there is a lot of work to be done, to put the Raiders back on the the winning path into a playoff contending team.
As his second act as GM, with a debt of more than $24 million over the salary cap, Reggie McKenzie restructured several current player contracts, released underperforming players, and constructed smaller money deals to players in order to get the Raiders under the salary cap. McKenzie was successful in doing so, and now the Raiders are $10 million under the salary cap. In doing so, McKenzie made some tough executive decisions, and released some notable players from the team. In March of 2012, McKenzie released Raiders corner back Stanford Routt, who was one of the worst corners in the NFL. In 2010 and 2011 Routt had committed the most pass-interference penalties in the league with a total of 31. He was under performing for the amount he was getting paid, and it was time Routt was let go, before he was paid big money in his contract.
One of GM Mckenzie’s biggest concerns this off season is the Raiders offensive line. He believes that the offensive line did not do its job and protect running back Darren McFadden and create huge running gap and holes in 2011. McKenzie signed former Houston Texans guard, Mike Brisiel, who will protect quarterback Carson Palmer and create running lanes for the Raider running game. With this signing, the Raiders hope Brisiel can make a positive impact on the offensive line immediately.
The Raiders secondary is a huge concern, especially with the release of corner backs Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson. The Raiders front office found a potential replacement, who can possibly be better than both Routt and Johnson. Ron Bartell is that guy. Bartell was the former corner back of the struggling, rebuilding St. Louis Rams. Bartell is a very solid shut-down corner, who played in 15 of 16 games in 2011. Bartell has been a top 10 corner in the NFL since 2007, and the Raiders made a wise investment for a struggling secondary. He was drafted in 2005 by the St. Louis Rams, and played for them from 2005-2011 for seven seasons. Throughout his career, Bartell has 311 total tackles, 8 interceptions, and 57 passes defended. The Raiders also signed safety, Matt Giordano to a new deal. Giordano had a decent 2011 season, leading the Raiders in interceptions with five. He has an excellent football IQ and an impressive vision on defense, but his tackling needs to improve. The Raiders believe Giordano is coming off a confident season, and will improve in 2012.
One position that the Raiders have depth is the line backing core. In 2012, because of salary cap issues, the Raiders tried to restructure the deal of Kamerion Wimbley, who didn’t appreciate taking a pay cut. The Raiders were forced to release Wimbley in order to help ease the salary cap situation. On March 30th, 2012 former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler was signed to fill in the position of Wimbley. Wheeler was drafted in 2008, and played for the Indianapolis Colts for four seasons from 2008-2011. So far in his professional career, Wheeler has 220 tackles and 2 sacks.
2012 may be a start to an era of a consistent foundation for the Oakland Raiders, but it has also been a costly start for the team. On the offensive side, the Raiders did not resign power running back Micheal Bush, who signed with the Chicago Bears. Bush had a very impressive 2011 season, when stepped in for an injured McFadden. The team released tight-end Kevin Boss. On the defensive side, the Raiders released corner back Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, as well as linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. Several key players from the past were let go, but it was the smart move, and the correct decision in the right direction towards success. The Raiders are in a semi-rebuilding mode, and for the next two years the Raiders may not make the playoffs, but they will be a contending team in the near future. The Raiders front office and coaching staff are making all the right decisions to do so. Unlike his late father, Mark Davis will not be controlling or interfering in team affairs, which he will only let head coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie run the team’s everyday football operations.