There, I've said the words, "2013 NFL Draft", that means that the NFL season is more about who will be here next year, keeping morale up and the team's upcoming position in next year's NFL Draft, than it is about getting to the Playoffs, beating the Broncos or seeing who will reach a career milestone.
Every member in the Raider Nation, from the Raider Raza to the Black Hole and the VIP Suites knows that this team is horrible. Not quite, 2011 Indianapolis Colt horrible, but, definitely, All-Time Raider horrible.
The team is led by a Defensive Head Coach and a wiz kid Defensive Coordinator, but, without a middle linebacker, there is no defense. Both, Head Coach, Dennis Allen and Defensive Coordinator, Jason Tarver, have created or helped coach dominant defenses. One thing that these defenses had in common was that they had dominant Middle Linebackers. In Oakland, they have a folly of a fool with no heart who would rather jog than run, shoot guns than practice and blames everyone, including the media, for his ineptitude. Oh, yeah, he also takes the easiest path to each play, can't tackle unless he guesses perfectly and his pass defense is so bad, the team decided it was best to play with only two linebackers on passing downs.
Fortunately, there may be a salve for this ailment in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Notre Dame Middle linebacker from Hawaii, Manti Te'o, is not only a Heisman candidate on the field, he is a Heisman candidate off the field.
Known for his commitment to the team and football in general, this is a young man who, when his girlfriend and grandmother died within hours of each other, stayed at school and didn't even miss a practice as he prepared to play Michigan State and Michigan. He didn't fly home and shoot a gun at a friend when he was supposed to be practicing, he prepared for and beat two arch rivals. Notre Dame didn't give up a touchdown in either contest and against Michigan he intercepted two passes.
He is a Heisman finalist because he is the heart and soul of the #1 Fighting Irish team and he has performed, on the filed, at an All-Time level.
This year, in particular, he has taken his game to the next level. In his three years previous, Te'o had zero interceptions and six total passes defensed. This year he has led the team in tackles while intercepting seven passes and defending 11 others. He has not spent as much time in the offensive backfield as he has less tackles, tackles for loss and sacks, but, he has become a much better all around player.
If the Raiders and unfortunate enough to be fortunate enough to draft him and Te'o can carry his play over into the NFL, the Raiders will be better next year and perhaps for the next ten years.
I mean, even if it is only his character that is on display every Sunday, it will be a huge upgrade over what we, as fans, have come to expect from Rolando "Whiff" McClain.