How Much Progress Should We Expect from the Raiders?

Elias Trejo – Apr 5, 2013

The Oakland Raiders new regime is a hot topic on Twitter since Reggie McKenzie was hired as the new general manager. The Raider Nation is used to Al Davis doing business a certain way for the last 50 years. So when his son, Mark Davis, hired McKenzie most new it was going to be a whole new way of doing business. There was really no other way to go about it. Nobody can replicate what Al did for so long, and it was not worth trying to do it that way. McKenzie couldn't be any further from what Al was. So how is the new way of doing business going? Well in the first year 4-12 was the final result. Not only did that show us how far away we are from competing for a Super Bowl again, but this offseason is also showing us the kind of plan McKenzie is using to build our team.

After a 4-12 season, we're used to seeing Oakland make a major move in the offseason. Maybe go on a large spending spree in free agency or trade a few high draft picks for a high profile player. Whether it worked or not, at least Al was sending a message to the Raider Nation that he wanted to win now. Unfortunately those moves ended up being nothing but empty promises and false hope for the fans, as not many of Al's final moves in the last 10 years actually paid off.

So as McKenzie sits this offseason and hands out small contracts to lesser known players, while cutting some fan favorites, the Raider Nation is throwing their hands up in confusion. What are we doing? Are we trying to get worse?  The reality is that from 2011 to 2012 we regressed as a team. Not only was our record worse, but the talent on the field was worse as well. Being worse in the short term wasn't the plan for McKenzie. His business plan title wasn't, "How to Suck in 2012, to Improve Our Future." His plan was to gut the roster and get rid of over paid players. This meant taking dead money hits, limit our spending and do what we can so we can be in better shape for years to come. This is the complete opposite of what Raiders fans are used to seeing the last 10 years, and the outcome should also be the complete opposite of what we've seen the last 10 years as well.

So how much progression should we look for in the next few years? Here is what I expect to see in the next few years from the franchise.

2013: Clean Up Roster, Build Core for Future, Show Improvement

In 2013 Oakland needs to clean up the roster and rid the team of the players that they no longer want to keep moving forward. This will give them more salary cap room and flexibility in 2014. In 2013 they will need to indentify a core of 15-20 players that they'd like to keep long term to build the team around. Oakland has done a good job at filling holes via free agency, but they'll need to come away with one or two high impact players from the draft. Picking at No. 3 allows them to find a game changer in the draft, but trading that pick to obtain more picks will help add more talent to the team. The team needs to establish their offensive and defensive philosophies this year as well. Scheme cannot be the problem in 2013.

The product on the field needs to improve, but that may not be hard to do after a 4-12 season. The defense can't do any worse than last year. They allowed the 5th most points per game, 27 teams recorded more sacks than Oakland, and they only created 19 turnovers. Oakland's defense should see progression as they are replacing old regime players with new players that fit the mold of the franchise moving forward. Also the term, "things can't get any worse," applies to the defense heading into 2013.

On offense the passing game needs to be consistent. Palmer put up 4,000 yards last year, but 3,120 came in losses and 1,583 came from losses of 15 or more points. Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor don't need a4,000 yard season to be successful in 2013. What the Raiders need is a strong running game again. If Darren McFadden can get going, Oakland will see an improvement in scoring in 2013. 

Record Needed: 7 to 10 wins. The Raiders need to look more competitive in 2013, and winning six games won't cut it. I don't see Dennis Allen or McKenzie being fired after 2013. 

2014: Use Cap Space to Secure Core, Build Roster via Draft

2014 is a whole season away, but in this year we'll have a lot more cap space. This should allow us to secure our players that we want to keep moving forward as well as sign a few more free agents that can fill holes. 2014 will also include the most draft picks McKenzie has had as a GM. Bringing in 5-6 players from the draft that add depth and competition to the roster should make us a better team. 

We're not sure what our offense or defense needs at this point, but we should be more competitive on a weekly basis in 2014. If we are not competitive by this time, McKenzie will fire Allen and find a new head coach. 

2015: Perennial Playoff Contender

This is the year that I see the Raiders becoming a perennial playoff team. After three years of drafting and cleaning up the mess from the previous regime, Oakland should be in much better shape financially and talent-wise. Systems should be put in place that allow players to develop, progress and give them the ability to play consistently at a high level. The term, "Next Man Up," should be something we are able to do successfully vs just say it. 

I see the franchise at this point positioning themselves as an AFC West condenter and also becoming a serious Super Bowl Contender. This is the progression I expect to see. If we are not here or anywhere close to here, I can see McKenzie being let go by Mark Davis. 

For more Raiders news and notes follow me on Twitter: @Elias_Trejo

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