The Oakland Raiders broke down and out of a lot of bad habits last year. They beat the Chargers; they won games on the road; they won back to back games, and they had a non-losing season. To take the next step they are going to have break down some more. They will have to have a winning season; they will have to win games against quality opponents outside of their division; they will have to win after the bye week, and they will have to stop getting blown out.
It is this last one that has me worried, and it is this last one that popped into my mind when I was reading ProFootballTalk.com's team checklist on the Oakland Raiders.
The last thing on their list was "Stay Hungry" to which they added:
The world isn’t out to get you, Raiders Nation. The NFL would love to see Oakland be relevant again after being one of the worst franchises in the league for nearly a decade.
Despite those struggles, we sense an odd overconfidence bubbling within the franchise after one .500 season. This team is talented enough to make a run at 10 wins, but not so talented they couldn’t collapse right back to five wins.
There is a lot of work to do and we hope Hue Jackson is the man to let this roster know 8-8 was just a start, not something to be overly excited about when a lot of talent could leave town.
Over the past few years overconfidence has been a complaint bantered around with the Oakland Raiders, which is really odd considering how badly they've struggled. But that is one of the things brought up as to why the Raiders had such a hard time stringing back-to-back good performances. Jump over....
Last year the Raiders were finally able to string together good performances, but man did they come out flat after the bye week. The Raiders entered the bye week flying high off a big win against the Chiefs and in first place in the AFC West.
They then came out of the bye week unfocussed, unprepared and getting their ass kicked. They lost their next two games by a combined score of 68-20.
The Raiders played their best when their back was to the wall last year. They were at their peak when it seemed like there was no peak to be had. Somehow, someway they need to harness that play when they are already playing good.
I think there is little doubt that the Raiders have been a victim to their delusions of grandeur. I think they improved at that last year, and I expect them to continue to improve at that this next year.
Hue Jackson's hard working, hyper-focused approach is going to help ensure this team keeps its edge. The Raiders focus on drafting self-motivated, hard working players is going to help, but more than anything, Al Davis is going to help.
At the end of the 2010 season Tom Cable proudly celebrated with his team proclaiming "We're not losers anymore." And Al Daivs promptly said, "I think you are," and fired his ass his. A lot of players were upset at first. They thought Cable got a raw deal. But there is no denying the message was sent loud and clear. Being 500 is not good enough. This team did not achieve anything. They failed. While 2010 was a vast improvement over the past, it was still a huge failure of where they need to be.
When it comes to 2011, I am more worried about the Raiders filling the holes that free agency is likely about to create, and the holes they had from last year, than I am about the Raiders continuing to suffer from overconfidence. With the right amount of focus and hard work that confidence will turn into swagger. and a little swag never hurt anyone.
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