It’s looking more and more like the Raiders are going to make history with their futility.
As ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson reported: “If the 2-8 Raiders lose three more games it will become the first team in NFL history to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons. Oakland has won a total of 21 games since advancing to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. The Raiders are currently tied with Tampa Bay which lost at least 11 games a season from 1985-89.”
During this six-year stretch, the Raiders been worse than the Bengals, worse than the Lions, worst in the league. The blame game is too easy with the Raiders. The owner. The coaches. The players. They’re all guilty for their contribution to the darkest era of Raiders football.
One area where they’ve struggled is building through the draft. After nailing their first pick in 2003 following their Super Bowl appearance—shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha—the Raiders have struggled with their selections. They’ve drafted in the top 10 every season since 2004 (except in 2005 thanks to the Randy Moss trade), but their picks haven’t lived up to the hype.
Here’s a look back at their top selections in each of the past five years:
2004: Robert Gallery, 2nd overall selection
The former Iowa Hawkeye standout was the “can’t miss” prospect of the ’04 draft. The Raiders expected him to anchor their offensive line for the next decade. Instead, Gallery bounced from position to position along the line, struggling everywhere along the way. He’s now a serviceable member of the line, but the Raiders didn’t spend the number two overall pick on him to be solid—they were counting on him becoming a perennial Pro Bowler.
Notable players the Raiders passed on: Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers, Sean Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger and Steven Jackson.
20/20 Hindsight: The transition out of the Rich Gannon era could’ve been smoother with Rivers or Roethlisberger wearing the silver and black, at least as Kerry Collins’ backup.
2005: Fabian Washington, 23rd overall selection
After three seasons, the cornerback was traded to Baltimore for a fourth-round pick in the ’08 draft. Needless to say, he wasn’t the second-coming of Asomugha.
Notable players the Raiders passed on: Aaron Rodgers, Jason Campbell and Roddy White.
20/20 Hindsight: White would’ve given that young QB (that they should’ve taken in 2004) the receiving threat the Raiders needed after the departures of legends Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.
2006: Michael Huff, 7th overall selection
Another defensive back, Huff came out of the University of Texas as a heralded safety. However, he’s struggled to find his niche in the Raiders’ secondary, and lost his starting spot earlier this year. Notable players the Raiders passed on: Jay Cutler, Antonio Cromartie, Joseph Addai and Mathias Kiwanuka.
20/20 Hindsight: Right area of the field, wrong position. They should’ve grabbed the corner Cromartie to pair with Asomugha. This would’ve helped them avoid this season’s DeAngelo Hall debacle, too.
2007: Jamarcus Russell, 1st overall selection
No single player will determine the future of the Raiders more than Russell. The strong-armed quarterback from LSU essentially trashed his rookie season with a lengthy holdout. This year, as the full-time starter, his numbers are not pretty. Neither is the Raiders’ record. With rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco having success in the league this season, Russell is under a lot of scrutiny for his poor passing performances. Russell needs to show improvement down the stretch. Otherwise, the organization heads into the offseason with a big question mark at the marquee position.
Notable players the Raiders passed on: Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn.
20/20 Hindsight: Since they (using my hypothetical hindsight) didn’t take Gallery in ’04, they can get that O-line anchor from a fellow Big Ten alum in the form of Joe Thomas.
2008: Darren McFadden, 4th overall selection
Rookie running backs have run wild this year in the NFL. Chris Johnson of the Titans, Matt Forte of the Bears and Steve Slaton of the Texans are all currently among the top 12 rushers in the league. Jonathan Stewart of the Panthers and Kevin Smith of the Lions have combined for 11 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, McFadden, the first running back selected in the draft has been plagued by injuries, limiting him to just 70 attempts. If he is active the rest of the season, he may give the Raiders fans something to cheer for.
20/20 Hindsight: Stick with this pick. Hope the health is a one-year issue. When he’s played, McFadden has been effective. His yards per carry is a very impressive 5.1.
Unfortunately, the Raiders made the picks they made. And their free agent signings during this time period have actually been worse. See: Rhodes, Dominic; Hall, DeAngelo; and Walker, Javon; to name a few.
There’s a lot of fixing to do with the Raiders and it starts at the very top with the talent evaluation/hiring issues that have plagued Al Davis. Until he changes and puts some stock in a knowledgeable general manager, the ugly draft results won’t likely change either. And that translates to the miserable football being played in Oakland these days.