It was 51 degrees in Oakland on the morning of January 26th, 2003, and the residents of the “other” city by the bay felt a sense of optimism surrounding their football team. After all, the Raiders just completed their third consecutive winning season, owned the number 1 offense in the league, and their first Super Bowl appearance in 19 years was set to kickoff in just a few short hours.
Then this happened:
Despite being favored in the game, the Raiders were trounced and effectively out of it by halftime. Little did they know they would be out of it for the next 11 years as well.
The Super Bowl team that Oakland constructed fell apart the following season with age playing the overwhelming factor. Offensive standouts Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice were 36 and 40 years old respectively, and the defensive core of Rod Woodson, Bill Romanowski, and Trace Armstrong didn’t have any Benjamin Button qualities either. However, the construction of that team was understandable. After all, it led them to a Super Bowl during the 2002-03 season.
The horrors that ensued for the next 11 years after Super Bowl XXXVII were utterly unfathomable. Fast forward to today, December 9th, 2013, and the Raiders still haven’t had a winning season since the “Dixie Chicks” were still a thing. The blame for the past decade-plus spreads far and wide, but it can be broken down into one simple yet crucial piece: poor management.
This part of recent Raiders history has easily become the most well known, even if their picks haven’t been. From 2004-2011, Oakland wasn’t terrible during the draft. They were worse than that. Here are their first round picks from those years:
None of those picks can be considered successful. Not one. And please don’t try to talk me into Darren Mcfadden. A bust or two in the first round happens once in a while, but when you have 7 busts in a row, that becomes a problem. Let’s broaden the scope to every single pick from 2004-2013 and look at how many good or potentially good players the Raiders have drafted over that span:
The Good: DJ Hayden, Stefan Wisniewski, Lamarr Houston, Jared Veldheer, Denarius Moore, Darren Mcfadden, Zach Miller, Tyvon Branch
The Bad: The other 68 draft picks (not including Jamarcus Russell)
The Ugly: Jamarcus Russell
A 13% success rate on draft picks isn’t good for the 7th round, much less all rounds combined. And to make matters worse, only one of the players in the “good” column has made a Pro-Bowl… Zach Miller. That’s right, over their last 78 draft picks, the Raiders have called the name of 1 future Hawaii-bound player. That’s it.
Salary Cap Dysfunction
Needless to say, the failures in recent drafts have inhibited Oakland from making any sustainable progress, but salary cap management hasn’t helped either. In 2007 the Raiders went 4-12, a very typical season for the black and silver. Their response? Shell out $200 million in contracts. Great idea!
Deangelo Hall, CB: 7 years, $66 million… he was released after 8 games played with Oakland
Tommy Kelly, DT: 7 years, $50 million… massive overpay but Kelly did play 5 seasons with the Raiders
Javon Walker, WR: 6 years, $55 million… 15 catches for 196 yards and one touchdown in 11 games over two seasons
Gibril Wilson, FS: 6 years, $39 million… he was released after one season with the team
Those contracts forced the Raiders through yet another significant stretch of mediocrity. Over the next three seasons, Oakland proceeded to go 5-11, 5-11, and 8-8. Encouraged by the .500 record in 2010, owner Al Davis once again opened his checkbook. Defensive end Richard Seymour signed a two-year, $30 million contract which made him the NFL’s highest paid defensive player despite the fact that he most definitely was not the NFL’s best defensive player. Stanford Routt, an above average player at best and a fringe 53 man roster player at worst, received a three-year, $31.5 million deal which made him the NFL’s third-highest paid cornerback. The following year, Kamerion Wimbley, another slightly above average defensive player at the time, signed a 5-year $48.5 million dollar contract. But here’s some news for you: That’s not even the worst of it… not even close! A 2011 trade for Carson Palmer forced the Raiders to pay top dollar (both draft picks and money) while Rolando McClain’s rookie deal was signed before the new CBA so he carries a hefty cap hit as well. But you know what McClain doesn’t carry? Football pads, because he doesn’t play the sport anymore. Here’s a look at what the Raiders are paying to have guys not play for them this season:
I’m not playing for Oakland this year either, do I get paid? However, with most of that money coming off the books this offseason, there is an underlying sense of hope in the black hole. Reggie McKenzie, the highly regarded GM from Green Bay’s well-oiled machine, clearly has a plan in place to get this team back to the top. The good news is that he’ll have a lot of money to spend this offseason to go along with a top draft choice. The bad news? Recent history suggests that neither of those things are actually good news. Either way, the 2014 offseason will be intriguing for Oakland; it always is. As for my advice for the remaining three games in 2013? Play dead for Ted.
At least Sebastian Janikowski has a tie for the record the for longest field goal ever. Oh, wait…