Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Old Raiders Mystique Really Is Dead

...and it may not be a bad thing,.  We just don't know what the new Raiders mystique is yet or even if the franchise will have a mystique at all.

The Mark Davis/Reggie McKenzie/Joey Clinkscales/Dennis Allen era of Raiders football is upon us in full swing. Maybe what we are seeing now is how hard it is to rebuild an NFL roster from scratch over a year's time.  The Oakland Raiders have all the earmarks of an expansion franchise - a rookie owner; a rookie GM; a rookie Director of Player Personnel, a rookie Head Coach.  Even though those guys have been on the job for over a year and have plenty of NFL experience in other capacities, it's still a rookie brain trust.

With Al Davis, we knew what we were getting when it came to his player personnel decisions.  There were some gray areas but it usually came down to physical measurables and a belief that the players Al chose to wear the silver & black would embrace the Raiders mystique and wear the uniform with pride. In Al's belief system, this pride would carry over to success on the field.  Al rewarded who he chose to reward based on this singular logic.

Times certainly passed Al by in more ways than we can count.  Players, especially younger players who may not even have been born when the Raiders were a feared team in the NFL, did not really care about Al's image of what the Raiders are and should be. Sure, any diehard Raiders fan can play up the legacy angle, maybe even as well as Al can pitch it.  Young players can be awestruck for a few minutes when they see the trophy case and portraits of hall of famers lining the walls at HQ.  BUT, it is debatable if players really care what NFL team they are playing for so long as they get paid. It just so happens they ended up with the Raiders so they made the most of it.  It's a fact.  Pro sports is all about money, not team pride.

I don't think the Raiders mystique exists anymore and it hasn't for a long time.  The nail went into the coffin long before Al passed away. The day the old Raiders really died was Super Bowl XXXVII.  John Gruden, the man who helped revitalize the Raiders mystique, was the same guy who crushed it. It is time to realize and accept the old Raiders are never coming back. Mark Davis doesn't want a bully.  Reggie and Dennis Allen surely don't want a penalty-laden team either. The new players representing the silver and black are all about trying to build a career in pro football, not restore greatness.  End of story.

Welcome to the new reality of Raiders football.  Players change allegiances quickly as we all do when we decide to change jobs.

So the housecleaning led by Team Reggie is not a surprise but what is unclear is what kind of team now exists on the field. There are lots of players with experience but what does it all amount to when they all come together?

I'm not so sure they have upgraded personnel since 2012. It just seems like different personnel with better depth. So few of the current roster players have distinguished themselves other than at collegiate programs. New draft pick Sio Moore talks tough but looks a step slow in the clips I have seen. That's my youtube analysis anyway. Like every other rookie, he has to show he can play the faster pace of the pro game.

Veteran Tracy Porter has the best highlight reel of any defender on the roster but then again, so did Gibril Wilson when he came over after a solid performance for the Giants in one of their Super Bowl runs.  New QB Matt Flynn is not a face of the franchise.  He has had one good game as a pro.  Ok, one great game but it was at the end of the season against Detroit.

I still don't have confidence in Dennis Allen. Reggie should have hired a head coach with better connections to build the type of staff that can work with an expansion/start-up roster.  I think DA will give us 4 years of below 8 wins a season.  In fact I think if he does get us 8 wins in a season it will be his peak.  It's a tough job and he's not the right man to do it.

How many of these players will be around by the time DA is fired and maybe Reggie as well? Probably none since they will keep turning over the roster.  That is the new reality of Raiders football.  Keep bringing in guys from Houston or Wyoming or wherever you can scrape them from until you find guys that "fit the system."

On the brighter side, all teams are in the same boat.  The NFL is all about parity now and finding the handful of stars to form your team identity (think Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, Aaron Rodgers, etc).  Until someone claims that role on the field for the Raiders, this group does not have an identity.

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