Oakland Raiders: Lessons To Learn From Superbowl XLVIII

David Wilson – Feb 7, 2014

Every year, teams that failed to make the playoffs look at the team that won the Superbowl, and ask what lessons they can learn from them. This year is no different, there being are some very good lessons to learn from this game, and from the Seattle Seahawks.

The first lesson to learn is that the best team won Superbowl XLVIII, and while that might seem obvious, I want to focus on the word ‘team’.

Take Peyton Manning out of the Denver Broncos line-up, and they wouldn’t make 8-8, but you could have taken any player out of the Seahawks roster and they would still have been the best team.

So this isn’t about having a superstar quarterback, the last 15 years of Superbowls have proved you don’t need one to win a title, and Russell Wilson certainly isn’t an all pro. Wilson does what they ask him to do within the system in which he operates, a system he fits, and doesn’t turn the ball over.

Pete Carroll came to Seattle in 2010 with a very specific plan about the type of offense and defense he wanted to build, and he stuck to that plan. To be able to stick to a plan for that amount of time needs continuity, something the Raiders haven’t seen for the last decade.

At least Dennis Allen gets a third season, and that is a start.

Reggie McKenizie’s first draft pick was guard Tony Bergstrom, who was selected to play in the zone scheme run by now departed Greg Knapp. With Knapp gone, it quickly became clear that Bergstrom was no longer a fit in the power scheme run by new offensive coordinator Greg Olsen, and he was beaten out by rookie Lucas Nix. That doesn’t mean Bergstrom was a bad pick, but it means the pick was wasted and rendered irrelevant by a lack of continuity.

Once you start to change coaches and schemes, certain players don’t fit and there has to be a lesser or greater rebuilding process.

Continuity is huge. Owners, GM’s, and fan bases need to have patience if they want to see long term success.

In fact Bergstrom wasn't the only wasted pick from the ill fated Greg Knapp move to the zone blocking scheme and back again. Joe Barksdale was a third round pick for the Raiders under Hue Jackson who was let go after his rookie year because he didn't fit Knapp's offense. Now he is the starting right tackle for the Rams in basically the same offense Oakland used this season.

Lack of continuity caused yet more waste, because if Barksdale was starting for Oakland last year, then Menelik Watson wouldn't have been drafted, and the pick could have been used on a much needed defensive lineman.

Another lesson is that you build through the draft, while bringing in a few talented free agents at key spots.

You don’t break the bank for them like Philadelphia’s ‘Dream Team’ (that wasn’t…)  from a few years ago, and you don’t pay out $100 million contracts to players like Mario Williams. He hasn’t done that badly in Buffalo, but has by no means justified his contract.

Cliff Avril ($6.5 million), and Michael Bennett ($4.8 million) are perfect examples of high quality, value players.

You also keep, and pay, the guys who achieve for you, no matter where they were drafted.

So Reggie, if you are listening, get those contracts sorted for Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston, they are our best players on both sides of the ball and you need to keep them.

Reggie McKenzie did do a good job this year by keeping undrafted free agent quarterback Matt McGloin over 4th round pick Tyler Wilson. He took some heat for it, but it proved to be a very good decision.

Previous years have seen the Raiders lose players by not doing that.

In 2007 Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons played for the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent defensive end, and got 8.0 sacks. The following year Oakland wouldn’t pay him the going rate for a quality pass rusher and (via Philadelphia) he ended up in Seattle.

He has 38.0 sacks over four years, with three consecutive season of 11.0 sacks or more. In that time no Raider has 11.0 sacks in a season, or even close.

Similarly Stevie Brown was a seventh round draft choice of the Raiders back in 2010, but was released in the final roster cut down, even though he made play after play in the pre season. He ended up with the Giants, and made eight interceptions as their starting safety this season, before going down with an ACL tear.

These were two impact players that Oakland let slip through their hands, and good teams don’t do that.

The final lesson is that good teams and great coaches think ahead of the game. They don’t copy other teams that win or have won (it’s a copycat league, but you don’t want to be doing the copying…), they get there first and have other teams copy them.

For example the rise of the bigger wide receiver that cornerbacks struggle to contain or compete with for the ball, such as Demaryius Thomas. Seattle didn’t go out and get themselves a Thomas clone, they went out and got bigger, physical defensive backs who dictate where receivers go and are more physical than them.

That kind of thinking got them to the Superbowl.

Right now we have some continuity in Oakland, and some cap space too. We haven’t seen either in a very, very long time.

So lets make some smart decisions and make them count.

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