This is a key offseason for the Oakland Raiders. It seems like that has been said every year since the winning draught began in the 2003 season. However, this year, there are multiple factors converging to make this potentially the most important offseason in recent memory.
The Raiders are in the midst of an epic streak of losing seasons. Seven straight years of 11 or more losses is the record that is being thrown around. It is not most consecutive losing seasons or double-digit loss seasons as is often said, but it is bad enough. The fans stayed away in droves towards the end of the 2009 season, with negative attendance records set in three games.All of the losing and the questionable personnel decisions have completely eroded the confidence of the fan base. They no longer believe that Davis has what it takes to ran a successful franchise. It has gotten so bad that a coalition of fans got together to purchase a billboard along Interstate 880 to call on Al Davis to bring in a general manager. Something has to give.
The Raiders top every press release with the words "Team of the Decades" and on the cover of the media guide is the phrase "commitment to excellence." However, the fan base is rapidly losing confidence that the team is going to back up that commitment on the field.
The few fans who made it to the games this season booed JaMarcus Russell mercilessly. The simple act of him walking onto the field was considered an affront. After his dismal performance, it was understandable he would get a few boos, but it reached the point where the fans would have rather seen Tom Cable trot out to take a snap than Russell.
The erosion of confidence started before the season. In fact, it started snowballing when the Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey with their first pick in the draft instead of the more highly regarded Michael Crabtree. It continued to grow as the stories of Russell's issues with work ethic and weight began to trickle out. The poor play and losing only set the cauldron of discontent ablaze.
The Raiders are looking at options for a new stadium, as 2010 will be the first year of a three year lease extension with the Coliseum. If they want a new stadium, they are going to need to be able to show that they will be able to fill it. In order to show that they will fill it, they need to put a team on the field that is at least competitive. They need to have the confidence of their fans.
The urgency for something positive to happen in the 2010 season is only intensified by the very real possibility of a work stoppage and lack of a 2011 season. If the Raiders continue their negative momentum with the fans through 2010 and there is a work stoppage, it will be truly disastrous. Their fan support has ebbed to a new low point.
In order to begin to win back the respect of the fan base, and build positive momentum going forward they have to show the fans that they are on the right track. Their moves in both free agency and the draft will be closely scrutinized.
The most important thing they can do to get back the trust of their fans is to just win, baby. That has been the mantra of the Raiders since Al Davis was brought on board to coach in 1963, but it has not been happening in recent years.
If the Raiders don't start getting their ship turned around in '10 and there is a lockout that kills the '11 season, expect '12 to be a very dreary season for the Silver and Black. They may be drawing less than an average A's game by then. That could well be the catalyst that makes the 2013 Raiders the "somewhere that is not Oakland" Raiders.