The Pain of Building a Team
by, 11-12-2013 at 06:00 PM (1295 Views)
After the latest frustrating Raider game, it seems to me that there is little value in breaking down the game against the Giants to point out the same things we see over and again. Instead, I want to look at the bigger picture. It has been painful for Raider Nation to watch our fall from grace and our stay at the bottom of the league. We have suffered long enough and many of us are starting to lash out! That is not what I like to do and I have really had to put an effort into staying positive. It has been hard and I have not been very successful lately. I am looking to change that starting right here. On the brighter side, we are seeing some signs of life from the Reggie McKenzie regime. Those signs of life have not reached the field yet and we are still some time from seeing that. This is not something that we as a frustrated fan base want to hear, but it is the brutal truth. Al Davis said it in the 80ís and even with the evolution of the NFL it still holds true today. Paraphrased, he said: ďGet the best players you can, get great coaches and tell them one thing: Just Win BabyĒ!
You have to look at this thing the same way as you would if you were gutting a house and renovating it inside and out. It is a rigorous process during which you see the house look worse before it starts getting better. We are just finishing up with the gutting process. Reggie has done a masterful job of shedding all of the bloated contracts. The likes of McClain, Seymour, DHB, Huff and all of the over-paid, under-producing players are gone as will the impact of their cap hits at the end of this season. Darren McFadden is in the final season of his rookie contract and if Reggie holds true to form, he will either be gone or on a contract more fitting for his production. Most of the free agent bargains we have been picking up are nothing more than patchwork. In my opinion, it is brilliant. A short term, low risk contract gives Reggie a chance to look for players to be competitive and prove themselves worthy of earning a long term deal. He has a decent balance of competitiveness on the field with his payroll dollars. Yes, I say competitiveness on the field because we have been in close, winnable games more often than not. If the player doesnít work out, he can release them with minimal losses. We have seen this with players like Ron Bartel. Some have questioned his draft picks, but it is still too early to judge him because he has only had one full draft. A patchwork, half built team is frustrating to watch and we are feeling that now. Letís look past all of that and see where we are headed.
For starters, if you look at how a winning team is put together, you see the same basic elements every time. On both sides of the ball, you have your franchise players at every level who are marquee leaders. On Defense, you have your defensive linemen who anchor the line with solid backups along the whole line who can rotate in when needed. The same applies to the LB and DB corps. The 2000 Ravens and the 2002 Bucs are prime examples of this. On Offense, you have your franchise QB with a solid RB and at least one or two big name receivers. Put that behind a solid line and you have a complete offense. Dallas during the 90ís when they were winning Superbowls is an example of this. If you have the pieces in place on Offense and Defense, the Special Teams only needs a few players in key positions to round out your team. As with everything, there are anomalies. For instance a weak defense can be overcome by a powerful offense that scores enough points to win. Conversely, a solid defense can keep the opposing offense off the field. It can negate turnovers, set up the short field and it can even score. This is how 2000 Ravens won their Superbowl and besides a weak opponent schedule it is how the Chiefs are undefeated up to this point. Special Teams scores can also help overcome weakness on the team. The final and most important ingredient is your coaching staff. They must put these players in the best position to use their talent.
Take all of that and apply it to our team and you can clearly see that we are still missing several key components. Our Defense is probably the closest to being complete. We have Houston anchoring that line as well as some serviceable guys who can get pressure on the QB and stuff the running lanes. It is close to being where it needs to be. The linebacker corps is too. We have a rookie and a second year guy in Moore and Burris with some solid veteran leadership in Roach and Burnett. As for the DBs, this is our weakest link. Porter is fairly solid, but he is still a little inconsistent. Hayden has a lot of growing to do and Jenkins seems to be a bit of a loose cannon. Branch is solid if we can get him back healthy, but Usama young is a very capable backup. Woodson is exceptional, but he is 37 and wonít be around much longer. We have a couple of years to find his replacement. You take that group with Tarver at the helm and we have a pretty good group that just needs a little tweeking. The Offense is a whole different story. It is basically in disarray. The problems start up front with the line. They are not entirely to blame for the offensive woes, but it still starts with them. We are missing way too much depth here. We have a good start at putting this unit together with Watson if he can stay healthy. Letís hope this injury plagued start to his pro career doesnít turn into DMac syndrome. We have yet to see him, Veldheer and Wiz all work together with the Guards, so the jury is still out. Moving on to the WRs, we have nothing at this position. Streater looks promising, but I canít see him as our Megatron. Moore was drafted to be the number one guy, but he has been extremely inconsistent up to this point in his career. Letís hope the promise he has shown this year continues to grow. Either way, we still have a big void to fill. The QB is huge. Pryor has shown an intense desire to win as well as a willingness to accept responsibility for the offensive failures. He is also a prolific athlete. I give him credit, but he has some inconsistencies that he has to work on. He may not be the answer at QB, but again he may be. We will have to see. The RB position is promising. We have Jennings showing that he can run effectively. There is also Reece who is way underused, but that is the subject for another time. Lastly, we have Murray. Perhaps he can be our franchise RB or a miracle will happen and McFadden will step up. Weíll see next year. To round out our offense we have Greg Olsen. I said it before and Iíll say it again. He is not the guy. At least he hasnít shown me anything to indicate that he is. Special Teams is mediocre, but only in the return game and that can be fixed at the same time as the WRs and/or DBs.
Our Head Coach is another part of the equation that the jury is still out on although my thoughts are that he isnít the guy. There is no need to panic and make the change yet since there are way too many elements missing, but he still has a lot to prove. We should give him that chance while we are building. I sincerely hope that he turns out to be our guy and puts a stop to the coaching carousel. All in all, we are just about where we should be. Next year is a huge step for us. With your cap space becoming available, we should see the pieces start to fall in place. I am not predicting that we will win it all or even make the playoffs. What we should see is many of the games that we have been losing start to become wins. With each victory, this young team will learn more and more how to win. We will move up in the standings and will see it continue to build until they eventually do win it all. The return to excellence is a long, hard road, but I believe we are on the right track so be patient, Raider Nation just for a little bit longer; no matter how hard it is!