Contenders, not Pretenders

OAKLAND CA - NOVEMBER 07: Sebastian Janikowski #11 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after kicking the game winning field goal in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 7 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For seven long years, fans of the Oakland Raiders hung their heads in shame watching the sham that Mr. Allen Davis was calling a football team in the Oakland Coliseum. In fact, it was so bad that some probably were not even watching, choosing instead to enter the solitude of bag on the head syndrome. But for the first time in a long time, the Raiders are a team that you can go watch and have a good time.

Three in a row, four out of five, and the like are not things that are supposed to be associated with the Oakland Raiders nowadays. Al Davis is crazy, the Raiders need a G.M., and the Patriots are getting a great first round pick next year; isn't that how this story line is supposed to go?

Well what happened? I tell you what happened, Al Davis hired Tom Cable. Immediately following that occurrence, Cable learned from his predecessor "Lance" Kiffin's mistake and got in good with the boss. From that moment forward, the rest was bound to happen.

Cable's first year, the interim year, he led these young Raiders to victory in three of the last six games, including two in a row over an up and coming Houston Texans team and the playoff bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But more importantly, that year, they got their first lesson in learning to never quit. That happened in a 49-26 beat down at the hands of the New England Patriots. The Raiders were getting stomped and went into the locker room hanging their heads. They came out with a different vibe, and they fought back hard, regardless of the loss.

In 2009, the Raiders hit a speed bump, and it was large...a large speed bump that played college football at LSU and was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. But later in that year, they learned they could match-up well with most teams and they found something else too, leadership.

Nnamdi Asomugha became more of a voice in the locker room, contributing his input and study habits to not only fellow defensive teammates, but offensive wide receivers and other skill players as well. Robert Gallery became a leader for the offensive line. While Gallery missed a lot of action in 2009, it was clear from the get go that the line was much better when he was a part of it. Bruce Gradkowski came in and put some fire in the offensive huddle, something that was desperately lacking and definitely needed during the short duration of the speed bump's career.

And Richard Seymour was brought in via trade for a first round draft choice.

In 2010, Seymour has been a beast. Currently tied for second on his team in the sack department (4.5), this 6'6" 310 mammoth has proven to be worth every penny of that first round draft choice money for next year during the current season. And Seymour's leadership has been second to none on this team. Making a statement by coming into training camp on the rookies' bus, pulling out his three Super Bowl Championship rings and awing even Nnamdi Asomugha by telling this young team that none of those teams he won championships with were as talented as these Raiders.

For fans that have been following this thing since it started with the hire of head coach Tom Cable (perhaps the year before when Davis Hired Cable as his O-Line coach), the 2010 may not be such a surprise as it is to some outsiders. Cable said he would deliver a winner to Raider Nation. He said it has been a long time since the Raiders were winners. He initiated his "win today" philosophy and the players bought in. For those who have stayed loyal, the road has been very, very long. But from about the end of 2008, it was clear that the team may in fact be headed in the right direction.

Yet some people still continue to say things like, "Tom Cable doesn't have a choice, Al said so..." to which I reply, isn't the point of a team to work together? Don't you think that Davis and Cable might have a mutual understanding of the nature of the matter at hand? Or is Tom Cable just another Davis Puppet?

I don't know, really it's neither here nor there. The point is this: the Raiders' are contenders, not pretenders. I, for one, believe what Richard Seymour told this team. They are more talented than the New England Patriots ever were. This team wouldn't have to rely on the tuck rule at the end of a game to finish that one out.

I think it's good that the rookies are getting their credit for contributing, yay! Jason Campbell for getting that dirt off your shoulder, and the defense is getting it done period, you really can't say enough good things about this whole process, special teams have improved...it's all coming together now. But one group that has been a little over looked during this whole resurgence is the offensive line.  

Since Jared Veldheer took over permanently for Mario Henderson, this unit has produced two five-hundred yard games and a very impressive second half against the Kansas City Chiefs. Also a factor in the process of this insanity has been left guard Robert Gallery---whom I just voted for to go to the Pro Bowl. Seriously, the left side of this offensive line has been lights out...well maybe not lights out, but let's go with a lot better.

So it's all coming together for the Raiders now. This plane has been cleared for take-off. And this plane is going places fast, like a speedy wide receiver. This team could hang with any team in the league and now they know it, so watch out NFL. Not only that but now they are proving that they've even got quality back-ups that can hang with NFL starters on a play in and play out basis. The Raiders are a tough and gritty bunch, they are scrappy and young and fast, and now they are all grown up.

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