For years, the NFL laughed and pointed at the Oakland Raiders. The league kicked them when they were down, as they suffered through a futile seven year period in which no team was scared to play them and their opponents virtually won a game before it was even played. Prior to that futility, the "Team of the Decades" had a long tradition of winning in the AFL as well as the NFL, in large part due to the knowledge and tutelage of head coach turned managing general partner, Al Davis. For years, they dominated their division, winning 13 AFC West titles, and currently hold a record of 94-66-1 against their division rivals since 1970. The Raiders have pitched eighteen shutout victories since their inception in 1960 -- half of those against divisional opponents.
But for seven years, TV analysts mocked and ridiculed the Raiders, saying that Al Davis had lost it, that the Raiders were done as long as he was in charge. Countless times former Raider defensive tackle, Warren Sapp, has said things that nobody who has ever played for the Raiders should say about them. Eventually, it started eating away at the fans, some of whom went so far as to raise money for a billboard telling Al Davis to hire a general manager.
Now, a changing of the tide stands to amend some of that ridicule. It appears that for the first time since the early 2000's the Raiders may be headed in the right direction. Some will say it's because of that pigeon, but I agree with Hue Jackson: Al Davis is a football genius.
I'm guilty on some levels of accusing Al of losing it, but honestly, I never thought he needed a general manager. I mostly just thought he was becoming disgruntled in his old age and therefore couldn't get along with his head coaches. That was causing problems with the continuity and chemistry of the team.
The dealings of the most recent head coach have changed my mind, however, and now it seems not to have been so much Al Davis, but rather just a bad coaching fit. That issue appears to be resolved now with the hiring of Hue Jackson. I'm not calling Jackson a savior, for it was actually Tom Cable that made these players believe in themselves and each other as well as the great history of the franchise. But Hue is a good fit and a great coach.
Soon, more and more people will be talking about how great the Raiders of the two-thousand-and-teens are and it is feasible that Al Davis could win his fourth Super Bowl before he walks away from the game he loves. As a Raider fan turned blogger turned historian and current affairs deliverer, I wouldn't want to see it happen any other way.
At this point, I almost don't think it even matters who the Raiders get in the draft this year. This is a team that is equipped to win now. Let the NFLPA hold out for as long as possible so that this can be an uncapped year like it was in 2010 and Nnamdi Asomugha can have his $16 million and wear Silver and Black for yet another year.
Funny that it was Raiders' great Hall-of-Famer Gene Upshaw – former leader of the NFLPA – who said that if there was ever an uncapped year played in the NFL that a new CBA would never be agreed to again. Let him be right. The Raiders will become the New York Yankees of the NFL. See how fast a new stadium goes up if that happens.
For the sake of all that is good in life, I hope that they don't reach an agreement and it plays under the same rules as 2010. Perhaps the Oakland Raiders make the playoffs, go on to win the Super Bowl, Gene Upshaw has the last laugh, and Al Davis rides off on his high horse into the sunset saying that the NFL will miss him when he is gone and being totally right about it. I mean, honestly, how else can this story end but that way?
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