Oakland Raiders: Is Team Chemistry the Missing Ingredient?
Jerry Rump – May 23, 2012
It has been an incredibly long decade for Raider Nation, as ever since the 2002 season, there has been one disappointing game after another for the Oakland Raiders. Attempts to repair this problem entailed relatively dismal experiments by the organization in what became a never-ending carousel of pathetic starting quarterbacks such as, Jamarcus Russell, Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, ect...
Yet, even with the sometimes ludicrous decisions for a starting quarterback, the team still looked promising heading into the next season, only to end up on the bottom of the AFC West by season’s end. Fans have continuously clamored “We have the talent, why do we keep losing?” or something to that effect, but with a few more colorful expletives added in to get the point across.
So, if talent has been there all along, what is it the team has been missing?
The past two seasons, the move has been made to answer this question by bringing in new head coaches, starting with Tom Cable in 2010 and Hue Jackson last year. A funny thing took place during both of these seasons.
Both coaches produced 8-8 seasons, dramatic improvements from the preceding years. This left many rejoicing and predicting an end to the playoff drought— only to be shocked that during the off-season, the front office made the brilliant decision to fire both coaches!
The regime change that accompanied the passing of Al Davis last season left the Nation in a state of flux as many confused fans still supported Jackson and were unsure if the team could ever recover from the loss of the iconic Don of the family. Many asked if Mark Davis could really return the team to glory or would if he just sell the team?
It didn’t take long to find the answer. Enter general manager Reggie McKenzie and suddenly there appears to be a shift in the Autumn Wind. Team chemistry, that elusive combination of talent, desire, leadership, and sacrifice for the betterment of the team, began to form and word quickly spread that it was time to get on board or walk the plank.
Finally for the Raiders, the rollercoaster ride that defined many of the past seasons appears to be giving way to stability and responsibility from the top on down in the organization.
No longer are moves made by trying to guess who the missing element may be and bringing in the most sought after draft pick or free agent. Instead, decisions are made with the focus upon instituting a team-first mentality and picking the player that best fills the role needed by the team.
Absolutely crazy huh?
According to history and some experts on the subject, team chemistry can be a spontaneous event, a freak alignment if you will, where all the players gel and focus on winning, case in point, the 1969 Miracle Mets.
However, the likelihood of this occurring naturally is rarer than the chance that Tim Tebow will lead the New York Jets to the Super Bowl. What? Too soon for a reminder that we will still have to endure the ridiculous Lifetime network made for tv mass media craze from last season?
Anyway, the building of team chemistry is accomplished more often than not from an organization adopting a philosophy and incorporating it throughout. The front office, coaches, and players must buy into the system and sacrifice pride and individuality to promote this team first mentality.
It is no longer about posting league-leading fantasy numbers, as stats must play second fiddle to winning. Selfishness must give way to accepting one’s role on the team. Rigorous work by the players must lead them to be able to anticipate their teammate’s every move on the field. Leadership must be established, not awarded, and no one can undermine or question the decisions made by the team’s leaders.
Off-field antics and distractions must cease, as the goals must center completely around each and every step it takes to bring home the prize of another Lombardi Trophy. Coaches must be the ones to establish this team mentality and loyalty is the only thing that should be rewarded.
Looking at the way the Raiders are approaching things this offseason, it does appear that these are the types of things that they are not only doing, but that they are actually beginning to thrive in this type of atmosphere. For far too long undisciplined play and an emphasis on individual accomplishments were destroying any chances they may have had of post-season play.
Mini-camp reports are positive as the players are really eager to promote the philosophy of head coach, Dennis Allen. Chemistry and morale are high as Carson Palmer and the receiving corps is developing trust and timing, two things critically missing from last season’s aerial attack. Darren McFadden is healthy and working hard to stay that way. The O-line, under first–year coach, Frank Pollack, is well on its way to becoming a force to be feared by opposing defenses.
Defensively, there are a lot of new faces to fill multiple positions, but head coach Dennis Allen, built a great squad with a lot less talent in Denver last season. Even with the recent turmoil surrounding linebacker, Rolando McClain, the squad looks motivated and hungry. So, do not let the media or lack of experience playing together fool you, it is on defense that the Raiders will make a name for themselves this season.
So, it appears that no particular one quarterback or head coach is the answer to changing the fortunes of a team without first receiving critical support from the entire organization. Change is more reliant upon a complete and total commitment from the front office to support the coaches, who in turn, motivate and instill a team first mentality upon the players.
Remember the game last season against the Houston Texans? That was an example of what team chemistry can look like. Many doubted that the Raiders could go into Houston and play inspired football after the sudden death of owner Al Davis.
The Silver and Black put the haters in their place however, as the team played unselfishly and with a united effort to win that game. It was truly a moment where there shouldn’t have been a dry eye anywhere in the Raider Nation as both the pain from the loss of our iconic leader and years of frustration were put aside in order to Just Win Baby. The team was united as one and showed the world of football that things were indeed fixing to change.
As it turned out, no one could predict that the team would lose that motivation and determination so quickly, or that injuries would decimate the ranks on both sides of the ball, but in the end, a New Era was born that day. When Reggie took control, it became very evident that the team’s chemistry was the element he sought to change.
Things still have to be proven upon the field of battle. The fight has yet to begin, but come hell or high water, there is a new mentality and there is definitely evidence already that team chemistry is the focus of the entire organization.
As the off-season gives way to the pre-season, and the team takes the field for the regular season opener on September 10th against the San Diego Chargers, pay close attention to not only what the guys are saying, but take notice for a big difference in the way they are playing.
When a team finds the desire to unite under one cause and believes in the system they are following, there is no obstacle or setback that can stop them from accomplishing their goal. Just look at last season’s Super Bowl Champs for proof.
The New York Giants backed into the playoffs. but they united and bought into coach Tom Coughlin’s philosophy and team chemistry was extremely high. The rest is history. With this example in mind, it is not then a question of if, but of when the Oakland Raiders will return to glory as they unite under Reggie’s formula for team chemistry.
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